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Internship Spotlight: Dr. Samuel Chinonso Ubechu, MD, MPH ’24 (Social & Behavioral Sciences and Regulatory Affairs)

October 04, 2023

Program Associate, SalivaDirect, Inc., New Haven; Funding: Yale President’s Public Service Fellowship (hourly compensation).

What is your career goal?

My career aspirations focus on global social impact and international development, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. My goal is to create sustainable programs, innovative models, and impactful interventions that will provide access to quality and unrestricted health care for underserved and vulnerable communities globally. One of my key areas of interest lies in regulations and policies governing food, drugs, and cosmetic products. I’m also deeply committed to addressing issues related to equitable access to essential drugs and medical devices. I recognize the ethical concerns when biopharma companies use vulnerable populations in clinical trials but set unaffordable prices for their products, contributing to health care disparities. I believe that by influencing and shaping these policies, I can help ensure the accessibility of essential products for underserved populations.

In the short term, I aim to further hone my expertise by working with a social-impact consulting firm for 7 to 10 years. This will allow me to collaborate on impactful projects that address pressing global challenges. I see this as a crucial step in my journey toward becoming a well-rounded and influential professional in the field of international development. Ultimately, my long-term goal is to transition to a leadership role within a top global international development organization, such as the World Bank, USAID, UNDP, or UNICEF. By doing so, I hope to leverage my skills, knowledge, and experiences to drive meaningful change on a larger scale, working towards the betterment of societies and the realization of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

What were your duties/responsibilities during your internship?

I served as an engagement and communications intern. My primary responsibilities revolved around interfacing with community partners. I was instrumental in coordinating mobile lab testing events targeted toward low-income individuals, undocumented immigrants, and refugees in Connecticut. This included building strong partnerships with community organizations and health care providers. I played a crucial role in planning and executing these events by researching and identifying suitable locations, scheduling appointments, collecting data, and ensuring that all logistical details were well-coordinated, accessible, and culturally sensitive. Additionally, I promoted SalivaDirect’s initiatives through various communications channels, such as LinkedIn and Twitter, raising awareness of the importance of accessible health care within these communities.

What did you take away from your experience as an intern? What was the value of the internship to you?

As someone seeking to work in international development, I acquired practical, hands-on experience directing public health initiatives while gaining a greater understanding of the need for accessible health care, particularly for underserved populations. Building and maintaining ties with community organizations and health care providers showed me the value of teamwork in accomplishing common goals. Coordination of events and interaction with varied communities required me to strengthen my leadership and problem-solving abilities. Finally, I was able to expand my professional network.

What was the most rewarding aspect of your internship? What was the most challenging aspect? The most surprising aspect?

The most rewarding aspect of my internship was singlehandedly building a REDCap database for SalivaDirect’s NIH RADx-Up-funded project and seeing the direct impact we had on the communities we served. Witnessing individuals gain access to quality health care services through our initiatives was incredibly fulfilling. Knowing that our efforts contributed to improving their health outcomes was a powerful motivator and a source of deep satisfaction.

Conversely, the most challenging aspect revolved around the logistics of coordinating these outreach events. Ensuring that these events were well-organized, culturally sensitive, and accessible required meticulous planning and coordination. Managing unforeseen challenges during the events, such as adverse weather conditions or unexpected logistics issues, was demanding.

One of the most surprising aspects of the internship was the extent of community engagement and the diverse range of individuals and organizations willing to collaborate. The level of enthusiasm and willingness to partner for the greater good was inspiring. It reinforced the notion that positive change can be achieved when communities come together, even in the face of significant health care disparities.

How did your first year at YSPH prepare you for this internship?

The coursework and skills I acquired during my first year at YSPH laid a solid foundation that exceptionally prepared me for my internship at SalivaDirect. Courses in Health Policy and Social Justice provided me with a robust understanding of the complexities and disparities in health care access. Biostatistics and Applied Analytics Methods in Epidemiology (AAMIE) equipped me with essential quantitative skills, especially in building the REDCap database and when working on data analysis. Furthermore, the comprehensive education at YSPH fostered critical thinking and problem-solving abilities, which were indispensable when addressing the multifaceted challenges faced during my internship.

What would you say to a student who’s considering a similar internship?

Embrace openness and flexibility. Expect to collaborate with a diverse group of professionals, each with their unique schedules and availability. Be prepared to adapt to changing circumstances, as this will be an enriching part of your experience. Additionally, never hesitate to seek assistance from your supervisors when needed. The work environment is conducive to learning and growth, and your supervisors are there to support your development.

Submitted by Sabrina Lacerda Naia dos Santos on October 04, 2023