Andrew Schneider - Salvador, Brazil

Career goal: I hope to bring public health practices to an international medical career informed by my background in social and natural sciences.

Internship outline: Andrew's research in Salvador was intended to help describe the behavior of Leptospira interrogans, the bacteria that causes the disease leptospirosis, under the shifting environmental conditions in the soil and water of a Brazilian slum community. The research objective of this project was to characterize the distribution and persistence of the pathogen in this environment. In order to achieve this, Andrew conducted multiple experiments in Salvador between May and August 2014 with the support of the Brazilian Ministry of Health (Fiocruz). The ultimate goal of this work was to illuminate the natural history of the bacteria in order to allow researchers and policymakers to propose interventions intended to stop the spread of the disease.

Value of experience: I was able to collect a large number of samples, which will provide valuable data to support our continued study of leptospirosis in Salvador. This was a project that had to be conceived and adjusted dozens of times over the course of 12 weeks, and so the most valuable part of the experience was learning to be flexible and to adjust to the inevitable difficulties and frustrations.

Best moment/experience: While the craziness of the World Cup was fun (for the first few weeks…) the city became much more entertaining once things returned to normal. Of course, “normal” in Salvador means beaches, street concerts, lots of dancing, fantastic food and that laid-back Salvadoran attitude. My best experience was going to a soccer game: not the World Cup game, but one of the local teams playing in the World Cup stadium after the tournament. There were probably about 5,000 people in a stadium built for 45,000, but the drums and cheers filled the entire venue. It was great to see how energetic and fun Brazilians can be, absent all of the grandstanding for the world stage.

Funding source: Wilbur G. Downs International Health Student Travel Fellowship and Tinker Summer Field Research Grant from the Council on Latin American and Iberian Studies

Andrew Schneider