Teamwork and Collegiality Key to Success of the SAMSI-SAVI Workshop

The following was written by Amrutasri Nori-Sarma, from Yale University.

“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” – Henry Ford

As a PhD candidate at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental studies, I spend much of my year designing and implementing my research projects in some of the most sensitive communities in urban India. Through the course of my fieldwork and data collection, I have learned to rely on the expertise of local community members if I want to achieve my research goals. These relationships can take a significant amount of time to build and nurture to a fruitful collaboration stage, which is why I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly the teamwork and collegiality came together in the first week of June, at the SAMSI-SAVI workshop in Mumbai.

Against the backdrop of the sweltering Mumbai summer, the workshop on Statistical Methods and Analysis of Environmental Health Data was an oasis in more ways than one. Leading participants from Indian and U.S. institutions came together for this inaugural workshop at the brand new Harvard centre in Mumbai, to discuss the cutting edge methods in statistical analysis of environmental health data.

Balakrishnan

Dr. Kalpana Balakrishnan speaking at the workshop.

For me, the best part about the workshop was the balance between methods-based talks (from Prof. Francesca Dominici and Prof. Donna Spiegelman and my own adviser Prof. Michelle Bell, among others) and summaries of the ongoing work in India (from Prof. Kalpana Balakrishnan, senior scientists in a variety of departments at the Public Health Foundation of India, and Dr. Mohan Thanikachalam). The interspersed talks provided a well-rounded picture of the ongoing work in India, as well as the critical research gaps that remain to be filled. This environment was further enhanced by the working group discussions around specific data sets that have been collected by our colleagues in India, which they shared with the groups for discussion and analysis.

group photo at the SAMSI-SAVI workshop

The group at dinner.

Midway through the workshop, attendees were invited by Dr. Swati Piramal to join her for a conference dinner at the Piramal tower. The collaborative discussions continued in the ballroom over dinner and drinks, surrounded by Dr. Piramal’s beautiful art collection. I was able to use this dinner to catch up with my research collaborator Dr. Prakash Gupta, head of the Healis-Seksaria Institute, who is one of the pioneering health data scientists in India working with a cohort that he has been building for 20+ years. I’m excited about the possibility of other similar Indo-US collaborations, which might have their origins at this workshop…

I’ll be returning to India in September to continue my research, and will look forward to the opportunity to reconnect with other workshop participants during my trip!

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