Spotlight on…Natalia Gnatienko

Natalia Gnatienko, MPH, a Senior Research Manager at Boston Medical Center
As told to URBAN ARCH Admin Core staff, March 2019

Tell us more about your background. How did you become involved in substance use and HIV research with Russia ARCH?

I am originally from Belarus, a country that was formerly part of the Soviet Union, which is why I chose to focus my graduate studies at the Boston University School of Public Health on issues that impact the health and wellbeing of populations from that area. This allowed me to explore topics such as alcohol use disorders, HIV, tuberculosis, and reproductive health in the context of the Former Soviet Union (FSU). While at BUSPH, I was lucky to be paired with Rich Feeley [JD, Associate Professor, Global Health] as my mentor. Rich had a lot of experience working in the FSU and was instrumental in furthering my knowledge and connections in that realm of public health. When I graduated from the MPH program, I really wanted to find a position that would allow me to continue to build on my interests. Jeffrey Samet’s work was a perfect fit: working in Russia (which also provided the opportunity to keep up with my native Russian language skills), and addressing my top areas of interest (substance use and HIV).

What is your favorite part of being a Senior Research Manager for URBAN ARCH?

Seeing the whole research process through from grant submission to publication of study results is very rewarding. I am fortunate to have been part of Russia ARCH from the very beginning and am excited about what the second round of Russia ARCH studies will show! I really enjoy working with and learning from the excellent team of researchers and staff assembled for URBAN ARCH.

As a Senior Research Manager, what has been one of the most surprising challenges you’ve experienced so far working on a globally focused research project?

I think the main challenge (although not surprising) of international work is keeping your finger on the pulse of what is happening on the ground. Russia ARCH has a really strong research infrastructure in St. Petersburg, developed over years of collaborative work, which, when paired with the excellent and experienced team of researchers at First St. Petersburg Pavlov State Medical University, enable us to conduct such high quality research in Russia. Other tools that we have implemented over the years include having a clear protocol in place, constant communication, and site monitoring visits. I am excited that our collaboration continues to grow and provides us with new challenges to tackle, whether it is figuring out a protocol for stool collection, or working with an HIV clinic to fast track ART initiation for study participants (in our LINC-II study).

Tell us one surprising thing about yourself?

I like learning new languages! I have been studying French for many years and am always looking for ways to strengthen that skill. I was excited to practice my French during a trip to Paris, only to find that my inquiries in French were almost always answered in English…c’est la vie!