Kay Beach had her mind set — she was going to Uganda. But the pas­sion that fueled her inde­pen­dent research study there took her in a direc­tion far from what she had orig­i­nally imagined.

For more than two years, Beach had served as pres­i­dent of the North­eastern Uni­ver­sity chapter of Invis­ible Chil­dren, a national non­profit aiming to spread aware­ness about a 25-​​year con­flict raging in Northern Uganda.That expe­ri­ence inspired Beach, a senior majoring in inter­na­tional affairs, to study the causes and effects of this con­flict on the ground. But as she delved more deeply into researching her journey, her focus shifted toward ana­lyzing the access to health ser­vices and health edu­ca­tion in urban Uganda.

I thought it was a great oppor­tu­nity to tread into waters that I didn’t really know, and that’s how the health aspect of all of this started,” said Beach, refer­ring to her focus on health. She and fellow stu­dent Alexander Wright, a junior majoring in eco­nomics, were awarded an Under­grad­uate Provost Research and Expe­ri­en­tial Learning grant to fund their six-​​week research trip this past summer.

Wright’s indi­vidual project ana­lyzed the treat­ment costs cancer patients face in Uganda, while Beach looked at other kinds of access issues. Beach’s research pro­posal was super­vised by Dr. Lori Gar­dinier, pro­gram director in Human Ser­vices.

While in the cap­ital city of Kam­pala, Beach sur­veyed 200 people from the Uganda Cancer Insti­tute, two area health cen­ters and an urban slum called Katanga. In addi­tion to col­lecting per­sonal and demo­graphic infor­ma­tion, Beach asked about how well they under­stood health, where they learned about health, how often they vis­ited a doctor and how far they trav­eled to reach the nearest health facility. She also asked whether they have been diag­nosed with long-​​term ail­ments, and what their greatest chal­lenges were to accessing health care.

Upon her return to the United States, Beach wrote a paper that ana­lyzed this data and incor­po­rated her own obser­va­tions and out­side research. The paper was part of an inde­pen­dent study under Kim­berly Jones, assis­tant aca­d­emic spe­cialist in the Inter­na­tional Affairs program.

Her research analysis also included rec­om­men­da­tions for the Uganda Cancer Insti­tute, given not only its stature in the region but also its status as an iso­lated health center. Beach’s rec­om­men­da­tions focused on max­i­mizing the institute’s resources and strength­ening its ability to reach cancer patients and spread knowl­edge about cancer pre­ven­tion and treat­ment throughout Uganda.

This expe­ri­en­tial learning oppor­tu­nity ulti­mately sparked an interest in studying global health policy, and Beach said she plans to apply to public health schools after grad­u­a­tion in the spring. “It def­i­nitely has a lot to do with what I did in Uganda,” she said.