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Victoria Shirriff - PAHO/WHO, Washington, DC

I worked in the Health Emergencies department on the Health Information Management Team. We met weekly in the Emergency Operations Center to go over the work that was being conducted by members of the team as well as updates on any emergencies that were occurring.

Career goal: I hope to pursue a career at the intersection of health, environmental sustainability and food systems. I plan on pursuing my PhD focusing on food systems, working towards addressing issues connected with nutrition, food availability and the impacts of agriculture on the planet particularly in the face of rapid urbanization.

Internship outline: This summer I worked for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization (PAHO/WHO) at their Washington, DC headquarters. I worked in the Health Emergencies department on the Health Information Management team. I conducted data analysis regarding foodborne disease outbreaks in Latin America and the Caribbean. My work focused on using Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to map afflicted areas and analyzing the impacts of climate change on outbreaks.

Value of experience: My internship experience was unparalleled. Not only did I learn about the WHO at large and the operations of the PAHO, I also learned about working with large amounts of data, creating datasets and how to work with GIS software. These experiences allowed me to apply many of the lessons and skills I have learned at YSPH to real-life problems. Working at the PAHO headquarters also provided me with great opportunities to attend a variety of talks and conferences on health topics, from arboviruses to marijuana legalization.

Best moment/experience: My best experience would be working with my Health Emergencies/ Health Information Management team, whether one-on-one to learn about various data analysis techniques, weekly team meetings to hear about the progress of other projects, or working with my fellow interns on our projects. The work environment on my team was one of the most supportive ones I have experienced. My team members and supervisors truly cared about my academic and personal growth, pushing me to learn as much as I could throughout my internship.

Founding source: Stolwijk Fellowship