International Student Deepens Knowledge of Epidemiology to Make an Impact in Her Home Country

Aizhan Kyzayeva Headshot

ALBANY, N.Y. (August 20, 2020) – Aizhan Kyzayeva is a trained medical doctor from Kazakhstan who understands the importance of epidemiology for medical research and education. Awarded a Fogarty International Fellowship, she chose to pursue a Master’s degree in Epidemiology at UAlbany to further her knowledge of epidemiology and statistical analysis.

During the pandemic, Kyzayeva interned at the New York State Department of Health’s AIDS Institute, a partner of UAlbany’s Center for Collaborative HIV Research in Practice and Policy. There, she helped to assess opioid overdose-related deaths among persons living with HIV. The findings of this work may help to better understand trends and key affected populations for opioid-related deaths.

“This internship gave me priceless experience working with ‘real data’ to hone and apply the theoretical knowledge obtained during my study at UAlbany,” Kyzayeva says. She worked with a database of people living with HIV in New York State and utilized statistical analysis software under the guidance of her AIDS Institute mentors, Wendy Patterson and Mark Rosenthal. She also participated in meetings, conferences and discussions that helped to shape ideas for future projects she would like to complete.

“Some novel strategies for prevention, care, treatment and outbreak response are utilized at the AIDS Institute,” Kyzayeva explains. “My internship experience will give new thoughts and approaches to improving research and public health measures in my home country.”

Kyzayeva plans to return to Kazakhstan and conduct HIV and AIDS research to improve public health, believing she will apply all knowledge and experience gained at UAlbany and the AIDS Institute in her home country in the future. She notes that her internship mentors, Wendy Patterson and Mark Rosenthal, and her faculty advisor Professor Lenore Gensburg, played a critical role in helping her explore new statistical approaches and critical thinking skills, both increasingly important for public health students amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Despite the difficulties of this time, this period is a unique opportunity for epidemiology students to observe and to participate in pandemic response and go from theoretical to practical application of knowledge,” Kyzayeva says.

Her internship took place in the office and remotely, pushing her to create well-organized weekly schedules and to plan efficiently to achieve the goals she was assigned for her internship.

“And through all of this, we have to try enjoy the time we get to work from home and the opportunities it may bring,” Kyzayeva says. “Working remotely enabled me to spend more time with my kids, creating activities for them and playing together, learning and reading.”