Sharing My Small Slice of the HPV Research Pie

October 30, 2018
Carissa Presenting at Conference
Carissa presents her master's research at the International Papillomavirus Conference in Sydney, Australia.

By Carissa Novak MS’18

Throughout my recently completed Master of Science in Global Health, Duke Global Health Institute faculty regularly stressed the importance and potential impact of disseminating research findings. Therefore, I felt presenting the research findings from my thesis at the 32nd International Papillomavirus Conference in Sydney, Australia, this fall was not only appropriate but necessary. 

Due to ongoing conversations regarding HPV vaccination coverage and HPV screening for cervical cancer, communities are witnessing a tremendous increase in screening rates—especially in low-resource settings, where cervical cancer is most common. However, most programs still face significant challenges in addressing HPV positive women’s low rates of follow-up and treatment. 

My attendance at the conference was an opportunity to share the findings of my thesis work, in which we found that in western Kenya, a setting where resources were limited for all HPV positive women, stigma and isolation were the main differentiating features between women who accessed follow-up and those who did not.

Interestingly, I presented the findings in a “rapid communication” format, which made up much of the oral presentations. The goal of a rapid communication oral presentation is to provide a succinct exhibition of the research, distilling the information to only the most salient material. I found the concise presentations incredibly compelling and thought-provoking. Limited to five minutes, my goal was to magnify the necessity of improving access to treatment for women, particularly in low resource settings. 

The conference was highly impactful. Speakers from over a dozen countries shared information on the biology, prevention, screening, diagnosis and treatment of papillomavirus-related diseases. The conference was a fantastic opportunity to explore the breadth of HPV related topics in a single week. My hope is that my oral presentation influenced attendees to explore new methods of improving treatment access in their future research endeavors.