SAMSI/Harvard Workshop on Environmental Health Data: A Lasting Impression – 9 Months in the Making

Contributed by Krista Coleman, MSM; Associate Director of Research Strategy and Development, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health

I facilitated the ‘Introductions’ on the morning of Day 1 of the Statistical Methods and Analysis of Environmental Health Data in Mumbai, India, and I can’t express how satisfying it was to see nine months of planning come to life. Once everyone provided their brief introduction including their name, professional title, institution, and area of research interest, I recall saying, “Well, it sounds like we’ve gathered the right group of researchers together!” That statement held true throughout the week as I watched existing colleagues reconnect, new collaborations form, and treasured friendships develop – all because we came together around the topic of India’s pressing public health challenges related to indoor and outdoor air pollution.

Krista Coleman_SAMSI

Dr. Francesca Dominici, Professor of Biostatistics and Senior Associate Dean of Research at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health speaking at the workshop.

This workshop was the product of a identifying a unique opportunity, the pooling of ideas and resources, strategic planning and dedication from the organizers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, SAMSI, and ISI-Kolkata. An incredible amount of care an attention went into the identification and selection of workshop participants – each of us leveraged the networks of our colleagues in the U.S. and India to recommend participants that would get the most out of their investment in the week, while also contributing to the benefit of others. Once we had a tentative roster, we worked with precision to create a program and recruit speakers that would meet the needs of all of those in attendance and seed collaborations. We were able to leverage the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s India Research Center in Mumbai and with an incredible amount of communication across time zones, plan and confirm all of the logistical arrangements for the workshop. Having never planned a workshop, let alone an international event, it was quite an experience to invest so much of myself in watching the seed of an idea be nurtured along the way and blossom into a wildly successful effort!

Touring Mumbai_SAMSI

Workshop attendees touring Mumbai.

In my role at the Harvard Chan School, I rarely get to so closely observe learning and research in action. It was such a gift to observe the lectures – watching researchers (spanning from students to professors) engage and learn from each other. I was amazed by how quickly the working groups began their collaborative efforts and was in awe of how much they were able to accomplish in just a few days – again, honoring the fact that we were all in the right place at the right time.

Dr. Prabhakaran Dorairaj_SAMSI

Dr. Prabhakaran Dorairaj of Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) speaking at the workshop.

It’s my nature to set high expectations for projects I engage in, and having never done this before, I wanted it to be perfect. I can say with great confidence based on my own experience and from the feedback we received, that we exceeded our expectations in Mumbai. I’m deeply grateful for all of the contributions from the organizers, speakers, and participants. This wouldn’t have been a success without the engagement from all of those who attended. Thank you all for being part of such an incredibly rewarding experience!