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Student Spotlight: Enhancing Research Skills with Idalina Cubilla Batista

As a PhD student in Epidemiology at George Washington University, Idalina Cubilla Batista was involved with the Avance Center’s PhotoVoice project and Youth Leadership project. Below is an interview with Ms. Cubilla Batista about her experiences.


Tell me about your experience on the PhotoVoice project from a research perspective.


PhotoVoice was an effective tool for conducting community-based participatory research and truly integrated a community perspective into the research. Community-based participatory research is especially helpful when working with women, youth, and groups with less power within the community structure. PhotoVoice gave me the opportunity to integrate youth into my research. It is amazing to see how much you can learn from a youth’s perspective. They were our eyes into the community.

Moreover, working with PhotoVoice gave me the opportunity to lead a mini-research team. I developed more research, team work, and leadership skills. In collaboration with the PhotoVoice team, I developed a curriculum tailored to immigrant youth. The results from this project went beyond research. Results were communicated to community leaders and stakeholders, which led to work on improving services in the community. 

What were the challenges of working on the Adelante Youth Leadership project?


This was very challenging work, first because is not easy to work with youth, and second because implementing this intervention required a lot of coordinated effort between the implementers, participants, and research team.

Latino youth, as youth from every background, need role models to follow. Our work on this youth leadership project was a mix between implementer, role model, and researcher. The experience obtained from this project gave me insight of what Latino youth are going through and helped me to frame my dissertation research in a realistic way. 

What skills did you gain from working on these projects?


Working on the Adelante intervention gave me the opportunity to gain many skills. This was my first experience working in community-based participatory research. I learned how to solicit useful qualitative data, how to lead focus groups, how to code conversations with research subjects, and how to extract quantitative data from pilot projects.

I was very involved throughout the survey development and translation process. It was very formative experience to work with faculty who are experts in diverse areas. Furthermore, I got the opportunity to use and apply my knowledge with programs such as SAS and ArcGIS. I also had the opportunity to participate in two American Public Health Association (APHA) conferences, with support from the Avance Center.

As a result of our work from the PhotoVoice project, two papers are on their way to be submitted for publication. My participation in PhotoVoice forced me to develop my writing skills, specifically in English.

How will you apply what you learned with the Avance Center to your work in Panama?


In Panama, I have to be an active member of research teams.  Now I feel more confident to be part of any research team because of my experience with the Avance Center. 

Right now I am helping Masters students build surveys for their dissertation, analyzing data for a tuberculosis research task force, and working on my dissertation based on all the experiences and data obtained as part of the Avance Center.

Idalina Cubilla Batista completed her PhD in Epidemiology at George Washington University. Originally from Panama, Ms. Cubilla Batista received a Bachelor’s degree in Medical Technology and a Master in Public Health from Montemorelos University, Mexico. She also completed a Master in International Public Health at the Escuela de Salud Publica, Carlos III, Spain. Ms. Cubilla Batista currently resides in Panama with her husband and baby, where she works on Vida Por Vidas, a faith-based community organization to promote voluntary blood donations.

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