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Internship Spotlight: Nicole Del Castillo (Epidemiology of Microbial Diseases)

October 04, 2023

Research and Evaluation Intern at Community Alliance for Research and Engagement (CARE), New Haven; Funding: hourly compensation.

What is your career goal?

I want my career to be centered on addressing health disparities through community-based infectious disease research and surveillance. I want to especially focus my efforts on Latine communities in the U.S. and in Latin America.

What were your duties/responsibilities during your internship?

I was responsible for managing and conducting a Centers for Disease Control Rapid Community Assessment pilot in collaboration with the Naugatuck Valley Health District and the Connecticut Department of Public Health. Our efforts helped advance vaccine equity by addressing low childhood vaccination rates in Naugatuck, Connecticut, through community-led data collection and outreach efforts. I also provided necessary CDC data collection tools to the Naugatuck Valley Health District’s staff, conducted qualitative data analysis on vaccine perceptions from parent survey responses, and helped build Connecticut Rapid Community Assessment training materials for local health departments.

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

My internship taught me how to be a more effective public health leader, as I learned more about the systemic barriers and facilitators for childhood vaccines. It continuously reminded me that health outcomes are influenced by the larger systems in place. As I continue progressing through my public health career, I envision myself valuing this reminder, so that I can provide a more holistic approach when addressing health disparities.

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

The greatest joy of my internship was conducting outreach to parents in the Naugatuck community to learn more about their experiences and thoughts on childhood vaccination. Throughout our outreach, I learned there was a great need for pediatricians in Naugatuck. This was challenging to hear, as we knew it would require an extended amount of time to address. I was surprised however, at how creative, collaborative, and flexible the solutions were to increase access to vaccines, which affirmed my career goals and inspired me to be a resilient and creative public health leader.

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

My first-year EMD courses brought up important discussions on vaccine equity, which highlighted certain policies and systemic barriers that affected access and affordability of vaccines. Having this knowledge allowed me to better understand the systemic barriers to childhood vaccination throughout my internship at CARE.

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

Be willing to explore something that is out of your comfort zone or something that is new. Before coming to Yale, my professional background was focused on infectious disease research and surveillance, and I was sure this was what I wanted to do for the summer. However, my internship focused on vaccine equity, and I am grateful that I gave myself the space to explore something new. I now know how to incorporate health equity into my work, and will continue to do so throughout my public health journey.

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