Part Two: Picking the Project

*This is a 5-part mini series on my experience of completing a Summer Project for an MSc in Public Health at the LSHTM (General Stream).
The Run

Picking The Project

“How do you feel about informal markets in Bangkok?”

“You mean like… the black market?”

And that’s how my Summer Project began. In late January, with the perpetual dull, grey and rainy skies of the London fog beginning to affect the general mood of The School,  I met Greg Thomas-Reilly to discuss the makings of what could be a great opportunity to do some research.

I had taken a good look at the options – policy report, literature review or research study and blanched at the first two options – they involved too much library time for me – I wanted adventure, I wanted excitement.

The black market was exactly what I was looking for.

To find my supervisors, I went on a pseudo-stalking mission, studying the LSHTM staff directory and cold-calling teachers with similar interests to discuss doing a project together. This way, I met some of my heroes, the giants of public health, in the crowded coffee shops and bars that surrounded our School.

My real passion lies in fragile health care systems and providing health care in humanitarian crisis –

(shameless plug: if your an employer reading this, let me tell you, I. AM. LOOKING. – find me on LinkedIn!)


….however, I used the opportunity to contact people outside of my narrow interests in search for the perfect project. From a man who everyone would love to have on a Pub Quiz team, Martin McKee (the self-proclaimed “Lady Gaga” of Public Health) to those who have led research and programming in Somalia, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, I had the opportunity to learn about the fascinating projects the School is involved in throughout the world.

I ran into my supervisor, however, on Twitter. Odd, considering I didn’t even have twitter account. In his background, I found we shared similar interests – from both being Canadian and Emergency Room/Public Health Nurses. After a couple meetings, I was ready to go ahead and begin planning my Summer Project, with Greg’s help.

He liaised with the LSHTM office in Bangkok and we decided on an exciting project;

Investigating the ability to purchase Rifampicin without a prescription in informal markets in Bangkok.

This study had epic written all over it.

I came into my Summer Project with three goals, and Greg and I had met them all in our planning development stage:

1) A supervisor who I could have a good working relationship with.

2) The opportunity to travel to a country in Asia.

3) Research. I wanted to get my feet wet in the world of research.

We came up with a time-line to have the CARE form done and I immediately began working on it, drawing relevant, hypothesis, aims, objectives and methods from the course material we learned in the first semester. Also, the CARE form questions in depth about the feasibility of the project; it seems that many students take on too much for what amounts to 10 weeks of time to begin, complete and write up the project.

Knowing this, I kept my scope very narrow – I wanted to visit 100 ‘informal market locations’ with a translator in Bangkok and see if I could buy the drug and at what price.

The ethical portion of the CARE form was the most difficult – I wanted to employ a “mystery shopper technique” – meaning that I would not be using informed consent. I would ask to buy the drug and then leave the store. In other words, I was trying to circumvent informed consent in the hopes of getting more accurate data (if people knew what I was looking for, they might be more likely to not give accurate information). In the CARE form, I made it explicit: I would NOT be collecting any personal information.

After two drafts (thanks for reading it Becci!) I saw the CARE form gain Course Director and Supervisor approval in March, and on April 5th, 2013, I received the email saying that the project had been Ethically Approved by the LSHTM Ethics Board.

Time to Pack My Bags for the Long Road To Thailand.

2013 MSc PH-3


Comments are closed.