Public Health Research Intern, Michigan State University (MSU) College of Human Medicine, Flint Campus; Funding: paid as a worker by MSU
What is your career goal?
I want to be the coolest public health professor, then keep spending my summer and breaks touring with punk rock bands.
What were your duties/responsibilities during your internship?
I was conducting field research for the Nutrition Environment Measures Survey in Stores (NEMS-S) and Neighborhood Inventory for Environmental Typology (NifETy) studies in and around Flint, Michigan. NEMS-S involved food deserts and food availability, whereas NifETy was based on the Built Environment [a term that encompasses buildings, roads, bridges, transportation, water and electrical delivery and other forms of inftastructure]. I had three undergrad interns I was supervising as well.
What did you take away from your experience as an intern? What was the value of the internship to you?
I had been working for MSU the previous two summers, so this wasn’t entirely new, but I learned how long and tedious the data-collection process in research can be. However, it is very important to do a good job in collecting accurate data, even if it is a slow and long process at times.
What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? What was the most challenging aspect? The most surprising aspect?
The most rewarding aspect was being able to talk with people on the streets in Flint. For far too long, our community has been overlooked, so people were generally thrilled to see some people within academia taking a concern for our city. It’s challenging sometimes to get much done with a limited amount of manpower, but we do our best with what we have. The most surprising aspect was how much I liked working with some undergrads from the community. These kids were smart and funny and hard-working, and I really enjoyed sharing some of what I have learned as a public health worker with a public health BA and as a current MPH student.
How did your first year at YSPH prepare you for this internship?
As much as I hate to admit it, the super-hard classes I had in my first year taught me a lot about what I was dealing with. Biostatistics and especially Epidemiology and Epidemiology II with Assistant Professor Leah Ferrucci (PhD ’09, MPH ’06) helped me out a lot in study design and data collection. Those math- and science-oriented classes were a real struggle for me as a person with a BA in public health from a school of social work [the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Thompson School of Social Work & Public Health], but I’m glad I got through them and retained something.
What would you say to a student who’s considering a similar internship?
I’d say if you’re working in a community, it’s a good idea to really become a part of that community. This was easy for me in Flint because I already live there, but people can live in a place without being a part of it. Seriously, get to know the people around you, and you will do such a better job of being able to access what is happening there.