Rob Mancuso is a second year MMSc-GHD currently conducting his thesis research in the Boston, Massachusetts area. With a background in finance and investment, Rob is a welcome addition to the MMSc-GHD program because of his unique perspective on global health. His thesis explores the impact the opioid crises in Massachusetts had had on those recently released from incarceration. The MMSc-GHD program reached out to Rob about his experience in the field and the impact COVID-19 had had on his research.
What hopes do you have for your research?
I hope that my research will educate people on treatments and tools that are available to reduce opioid addiction. Additional governmental funding is also critical to support services needed to bolster individual confidence and self-worth, such as employment, and provide social services such as sober living housing, transportation to treatment centers and programs like Narcotics Anonymous to stave off relapse.
What challenges have you faced while in the field?
The extent and level of devastation seen in the faces of opioid users in the South Bay area of Boston has been most striking to me. Fortunately, I have also witnessed a few drug users who have succeeded in restarting their lives in a positive direction. It has also been inspiring to see the deep compassion embodied by a number of individuals to help people in their fight to remain sober. These include both clinicians in treatment and rehabilitation programs as well as those in prisons such as the Suffolk County House of Correction who work to implement educational programs that provide knowledge and hope.
How has COVID-19 impacted your study?
Covid-19 has been a challenge for this population. The Department of Corrections was shut down for over 6 weeks this past Spring. Inmates were provided only 30 minutes free time outside of their cells. Baloney sandwiches were the norm and food could only be eaten within the cell. Calling family was also restricted. Estimates of well over 500 prisoners in the total Massachusetts system contracted COVID, adding significantly more stress to the already challenged prison environment. The impact on my research has thankfully been limited given the ability to communicate via zoom. However, in-person interviews are always more effective in drawing out nuances.
How has your time with the MMSc-GHD prepared you for your research?
The MMSc-GHD program provided me with critical new knowledge, especially considering my previous business background. Of course, I have been amazed by the talented and knowledgeable professors at Harvard and especially the time they allocate to ensure students understand the depth and breadth of the concepts.