Applied Practice Experience in Action

Laila Rhodes
HIV Prevention and Intervention Practicum
Little Rock, Arkansas
Arkansas Department of Health
Summer 2019
Specialization: Health Behavior and Health Promotion
The practicum truly is what you make it... take the initiative to seek out opportunities and you will find that there are people who are excited and willing to help you have an amazing experience.
Laila and Arkansas Department of Health group photo

Major Projects:

My practicum took place in the the HIV Prevention and Intervention departments of the Infectious Disease Branch at the Arkansas Department of Health. My primary project was to compile known resources for HIV prevention and care throughout the state. I created a streamlined document specific to each public health region in the state so that providers in rural areas would be able to readily access the HIV prevention and care opportunities in their local area. Parts of my document were also used as a required portion of the HIV Integrated Care Plan for 2019-2024.
One of the great opportunities I had during my practicum was getting to participate in the HIV Planning Group meeting. It was during this meeting that I was able to see how the state department works with community members and stakeholders to best reach the target populations. It was a really enriching experience to see how the community is able to give feedback to the state in order to best execute health programs.
Another great opportunity I had was getting to go into the field with a Disease Intervention Specialist. We went to an individual’s home to inform him of his positive disease status and ensure he was linked to care. Through that experience, I was able to see what actual steps are taken by the state in order to contain, monitor, and treat infectious diseases on the ground.
The highlight of my practicum was the opportunity to meet Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the CDC. Dr. Redfield was in Little Rock during my time at the Arkansas Department of Health in order to discuss how Arkansas can work to eliminate HIV as part of President Trump’s initiative to reduce new HIV infections by 75% in the next 5 years. In addition to hearing him speak at the Health Department’s Grand Rounds, I was also given the opportunity to observe the Roundtable Discussion with Dr. Redfield, Dr. Smith, Director of the Arkansas Department of Health, and many community stakeholders.
Overall, my practicum was an amazing opportunity to see public health work in action. I was very blessed to land in a department that bent over backwards to make sure that my experience was a success and that I got every opportunity to learn and do as much as possible.

Laila and Arkansas Department of Health group photo

How did you find your Practicum? When did you start exploring Practicum Opportunities?

I found my practicum by emailing a contact at the Arkansas Health Department. I started looking in the Spring and did not find anything available in Ohio that fit my life and schedule... so I emailed my contact in the Health Department and they were more than willing to work with me and the hours I wanted/needed when I was able to work them. I was in contact with the Arkansas health department from my undergrad experience. 

Lauren Howard
Developing sodium reduction educational activities for 4-H Healthy Living
Columbus, Ohio
College of Food, Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, The Ohio State University
Summer 2019
Specialization: Health Behavior and Health Promotion
There are many opportunities available so when looking for who to reach out to, I followed advice from Dawn Williams who said something along the lines of "reach out to the organization and/or find experiences that first inspired you to pursue a degree in public health".
students studying sodium-related cards

Major Projects:

I found my practicum by asking a professional in the Autumn semester, I had previously interviewed and shadowed, if there were any opportunities to do my practicum with her or someone within her department. She wasn’t going to be available the following Summer semester because she was going to be on maternity leave but she referred me to her colleague, who had project available for me to work on. By the end of Autumn semester, I had a practicum lined up.

Tasks I was responsible for included:
   1) Determining evidence-supported strategies for successfully changing knowledge and behaviors related to sodium consumption, especially among children and adolescents.
   2) Reviewing curricula appropriate for teens to use to teach others about sodium reduction and advocate for healthier nutrition environments.
   3) Developing 2 teaching activities, including learning objectives, to add to the Ohio 4-H Healthy Living sodium reduction teaching kit.
   4) Pilot testing and evaluating the teaching activities. (Assess knowledge gained, amount of interaction, satisfaction, ease of use, ways to improve.)
   5) Coordinating the creation of at least 100 sodium education kits that will be distributed throughout the state of Ohio to be used by 4-H participants.
The timeline for me to complete the tasks and how I would go about creating the project was very different from my plan or expectations. But I learned to be flexible and how to make good timely decisions when under mild stress. I traveled to Dayton, Ohio to pilot the activities with teens and I enjoyed working with the kids and seeing the program come to fruition. Outside of my tasks, I attended various conferences and events for free (sponsored by my supervisor).

student holding up sodium-related card

How did you find your Practicum? When did you start exploring Practicum Opportunities?

I was networking with someone (who I found on LinkedIn) who was doing something that interested me. I had previously interviewed them and got a chance to observe them. Later on, I eventually reached out to see if she had any opportunities for me to do my practicum within her department. She wasn't going to be available the time of my practicum, because she was expecting to have her baby by then, so she introduced me to someone within a different department (but within the same organization). I had a meeting with the professional, who ended up being my preceptor, and she offered me an opportunity to work on a project for her within 4-H at OSU Extension.

I started exploring practicum opportunities at the beginning of Autumn Semester and I had everything approve by the beginning of the second semester. It worked out well because the second semester was a lot busier and challenging for me, so it was nice having my practicum taken care of.

Austin Oslock
Health Policy Institute of Ohio (HPIO): Student Intern
Columbus, Ohio
Health Policy Institute of Ohio
Summer 2019
Specialization: Health Behavior and Health Promotion
If you're interested in diving deep into evidence-based health strategies in order to inform policymaking, then HPIO is the place for you!
HPIO group photo

Major Projects:

HPIO is a non-partisan policy think tank that works on a variety of different contracted projects for state agencies and politicians (I recommend reviewing the publications on their website to get a sense of their work). The office consists of ~10 full-time staff that are all working on independent projects, and there is an immense amount of collaboration among the employees. As an HPIO student intern, you will become an integrated member of the office staff and will be asked to assist on a number of projects. You will often receive same-day assignment requests that are time-sensitive for project deliverables. In addition, you will be assigned to one core project to assist with, which you will spend most of your time working on.
   Potential tasks & activities include:
   • Proofing written HPIO documents
   • Quality checking established databases
   • Creating & analyzing new data sets
   • Performing reviews of evidence and literature
   • Attending meetings with policymakers
   • Running HPIO sponsored events & meetings
   Overall, HPIO will keep you active and engaged in their work. You will leave this internship with a better sense of how evidence can be used to inform policy.

Julia Doncaster
Investigating Assault & Aggression Against Bus Operators
Hartford, Connecticut
Occupational Health Internship Program - Amalgamated Transit Union Local 425
Summer 2019
Specialization: Environmental Health Sciences
transit bus

Major Projects:

Through the Occupational Health Internship Program, myself and another MPH student from UConn Health were placed at Amalgamated Transit Union Local 425 in Hartford, Connecticut to investigate assault and aggression against bus operators at CTtransit. We reviewed relevant literature, conducted interviews, rode local buses, analyzed incident reports, and developed a survey about this issue. We administered our survey to 178 bus operators in Hartford, Stamford, and New Haven, Connecticut. We created a poster and presentation of the survey results to present in Washington, D.C. at The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health headquarters. Our data and our project report will be used by the union to advocate for safer working conditions for bus operators in Connecticut.

passengers on a bus
Natalie Brooks headshot
Camp Public Health 2019
Columbus, Ohio
Columbus Public Health
Summer 2019
Specialization: Health Behavior and Health Promotion
This experience was a dream come true and it makes me excited to see what the future holds for me as a public health professional.

Major Projects:

My responsibilities as a summer intern for Camp Public Health 2019 included planning the week-long camp public health, organizing and scheduling all activities, providing new ideas to make camp more efficient and fun, ordering all promotional items and supplies, creating a budget request, leading some camp activities, editing and sending parent/guardian newsletters, communicating across all departments to ensure materials are complete, developing the camper workbook, and answering all questions parents/guardians had leading up to the week of camp.

I loved being able to do a lot of the behind the scenes work and plan the entire camp. I have never had an internship experience that allowed me to plan a large program and then later implement that program. During my first year in the MPH program, I learned about the steps to planning a program but for the first time ever I was able to do all of the program planning in a real world setting essentially on my own. After the program planning was complete, seeing the program being implemented was an amazing experience. Confirming all presentations/activities scheduled and witnessing the campers participate was extremely rewarding. I have more confidence in myself as a public health professional and I feel comfortable taking on other programs later in my career.

Working at Columbus Public Health has always been a dream of mine so finding the perfect practicum at my dream location was an amazing find. This experience has given me many opportunities to connect with staff across the department and open my eyes to the endless possibilities public health has. As I worked with numerous staff members and other community partners, I saw how well we all organized a great experience for the teens in our community. We may have our own projects through our departments but ultimately, we all have a common goal of creating positive change in people’s lives.

Jessica Shrake
Epidemiology Intern
Marysville, Ohio
Union County Health Department
Summer 2019
Specialization: Epidemiology
I would definitely recommend looking for practicums early, and talking with your advisors and professors about your interests so they can help you find the best fit!
Jessica on site

Major Projects:

I was fortunate enough to participate in a variety of activities in my practicum! My main project was writing a Health Equities Report for Union County, Ohio. I also assisted with different vector control and surveillance projects, a prescription safety project, fitting elementary school children for bike helmets, and miscellaneous other tasks. All of these gave me a better appreciation for all that public health is and does on a local level.

I like to be prepared, so I began looking for spring/summer opportunities around mid-fall semester. I discussed my interests with my advisor and what I hoped to gain from my practicum. From this, we discussed some opportunities that were available, including the internship with Union County Health Department (UCHD). I scheduled an interview with UCHD during winter break, and was able to start shadowing and working up there during the spring. I completed my official practicum in the summer semester. Because I started the process early, I had more time and experience at my practicum site.

My experience at UCHD was extremely positive! Everyone there puts students first and encourages their participation in all aspects of public health. I feel this way because I was included in every meeting (including offsite meetings), and was considered a valuable member and voice in those settings. I also was allowed to shadow in other divisions other than epidemiology. For example, one day I shadowed one of our sanitarians, helping inspect a food truck and look into a nuisance complaint. Another time, I worked with other divisions to create a drug disposal fact sheet revolving around a new product called DisposeRx. UCHD considers it their mission to give you the most well-rounded practicum experience possible, while also allowing you to explore your interests. Because of them, I feel like I have a much better understanding of public health and how we in public health work together and positively impact our communities. I would highly recommend UCHD to anyone looking for a practicum, shadowing experience, or a job.

students and parents on Bike to School Day
Nicholas Woroncow headshot
The Ohio State University Vaccination Policy Compliance Assessment
Wilce Student Health Center
Office of Student Life: Student Health Services
Summer 2019
Specialization: Epidemiology
Taking on a project and building it up is terrifying the first time you do it, but remember: you know more than you think you know!

Major Projects:

During my practicum with Student Health Services, I was responsible for assessing compliance with the OSU vaccination requirements among the student body on the main Columbus campus. Since the OSU vaccination requirement policy was implemented in the 2015-2016 school year, the overarching goal of this project was to determine the extent to which the student body was knowingly protected against outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases during the 2015-2019 period. This involved developing a data collection plan, working with the Health Information Services team to gather the relevant information from the electronic health record, and analyzing the data to calculate compliance rates for relevant student groups. I then used this information as a basis for policy recommendations to increase student compliance with these requirements. Another element of this project involved analyzing the numbers and rates of students filing exemptions to these requirements, so that the University might be able to determine a rough estimate of the amount of student on campus actually immunized against these vaccine-preventable diseases.

Having the opportunity to work on this project was incredibly meaningful to me. Over the course of a summer, I was able to use the skills that I had developed in the classroom during the previous two semesters to tangibly work towards improving the health of the public. The fact that I was working to improve the health of the OSU student population was also incredibly exciting, since it is rare in my experience to have the chance to actually see the results of your work in action. The work that I did during this practicum was done for people that I know, for a campus that I am a member of, and for the health of a community that I live in. I ran into numerous obstacles and difficulties during this project: creating analysis plans and datasheets from the ground up, dealing with an electronic health record that changed from day to day, and handling more data than I have ever had to deal with before. Despite all of this, the knowledge that I was actively working towards the betterment of the OSU campus made all of the struggles worth it. I have never been as proud of a project as I have been with this compliance assessment!