SETC Executive Committee Update ” March 2020:
You don’t have to travel 5,000 miles for Epi experience, but it doesn’t hurt.

Majuro Lagoon - E Timme
Photo credit: E Timme, Majuro Lagoon outside of Yummy [a great place for a Bob Shake], Majuro, RMI


In the fall of 2018, I had the pleasure of participating in the TB + Leprosy Free Majuro collaboration. Thanks to NTCA for being a springboard to recruit TB staff from the US and abroad. Without NTCA’s successful push to engage their stakeholders, I probably would have not known about the opportunity. The campaign provided 3-week work-and-learn opportunities for volunteers to work shoulder to shoulder with local Majuro staff. As a new volunteer group arrived, the baton of knowledge, responsibilities, and SAS code was passed to the incoming group. This cycle made for an interesting experience in a new environment. Arriving at the tail end, I received tidbits and pointers that prior epis shared along the way. A bit more functional than an elementary game of telephone, I was provided program codes, data sources, and a working knowledge. A lot can be said about an experience, so I’ll keep it short and share two; 1) If you want to really hear about an experience, make time to chat with someone who participated. You’ll get a greater insight and a personal touch compared to reading a choppy write-up like the one you’re reading right now. 2) I’m a believer of simple tangible takeaways, so here are a few bulleted points:

  • Engage and ask questions with local staff, but don’t forget to listen.
  • Partake in the local cuisine. Bob shakes were my favorite.
  • Receiving legacy SAS code can be challenging. Instead of deleting or saving 20 different versions, consider commenting unwanted sections by highlighting and pressing Ctrl + /.
  • Find what locals do outside of work and participate. I played pick-up basketball and built stronger working relationships with the local staff. Plus, it’s awesome when 5’9’’ makes you the tallest player on the court.


When I boarded the flight to Majuro, I tried not to have any expectations except that the next three weeks would be the experience of a lifetime. My only goals were to be open and flexible in any situation and to do my best to keep pushing the project forward. Little did I know that within an hour of landing I would be at a lunch table with the current on-site project coordinators asking for my input on next steps. Nor did I imagine that some of my favorite days would include running around a hospital looking for missing specimens, making last minute case conference PowerPoint updates outside on the hospital steps, updating a line-list on a seawall after dark because it was the only place I could find a Wi-Fi connection, or spending a weekday morning celebrating local culture. Don’t get me wrong, there were many challenges, and 12-hour workdays at four different locations are no joke, but the positive experiences far outweighed any stressful ones. By the end of three weeks I had learned how to do real-time boots on the ground epi that directly informed goals and achievements. Here are a few my biggest lessons learned:

  • Never hesitate to clean up someone else’s messes; you’ll only hinder your progress and results.
  • Keep focus on those who will continue your work and find ways to make their jobs easier.
  • Sometimes you just need to step away from the SAS code, countless google sheets, and search for missing CXRs to grab a donut and coffee.

Like Evan said, any experience is best shared over a chat, so please find one of us at the conference in May if you want to hear more.

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