Field Experience

Student Reports from 2013 Summer Internships

The UM SPH Office of Global Public Health awarded over $87,000 of Master’s-level internship funding for summer 2013, to a diverse group of 26 students from nearly every department at SPH. They worked in 16 countries:

  • Bolivia, Ecuador, Panama, Peru
  • Ghana, Malawi, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe
  • Hong Kong, India, Mongolia
  • Scotland, Spain, Switzerland

Map of AfricaMap of Europe

Map of AsiaMap of South America

  • Nicole Lockwood, Health Behavior/Health Education, Zambia

    Nicole Lockwood in Zambia"Pediatric Palliative Care in Zambia"
    Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) in Lusaka, Zambia

    What Nicole did: "My main assignment was to develop a detailed situation analysis on palliative care in the country, with plans for it to be published and utilized to help inform national policy. I interviewed key stakeholders, performed literature searches, and reviewed health databases. In addition to the situation analysis, I co-authored an abstract that was submitted to the International Children's Palliative Care Network's conference to be held in 2014."

    Most valuable about the experience: "This was my first time working for an international organization. It was really beneficial for me to learn how an international organization works in country, as I was considering a career at an international organization. To be able to experience what it would be like to work for such an organization and to talk to people who have been working there for various amounts of time was invaluable."

  • Mirele Mann, Environmental Health Sciences, Bolivia

    Mirele Mann in BoliviaMirele Mann in Bolivia"Developing Accessible Telehealth Programs for Hypertensive and Diabetic Patients in La Paz, Bolivia"
    QUICCC - Quality Improvement for Complex Chronic Conditions in La Paz, Bolivia

    What Mirele did: "The first month was devoted to networking and connecting with Bolivian collaborators, translating and modifying our screener and cross-sectional surveys, as well as practicing it on native Bolivians to receive feedback on the relevance and appropriateness of the questions. The last two months were dedicated to administering surveys and enrolling patients in the telehealth program. I was assigned to Hospital San Gabriel, a public hospital in La Paz."

    Most valuable about the experience: "The relationships I made with native Bolivians were what made my experience incredibly valuable. These relationships extended beyond those with public health or medical collaborators, but also to friends and my host family. Together we developed an interchange of culture, language, and experiences."

  • Julia Ward in SpainJulia Ward, Epidemiology, Spain

    "Baseline analysis of effectiveness of housing intervention on health outcomes study"
    Agencia de Salut Publica de Barcelona in Barcelona, Spain

    What Julia did: "I conducted descriptive, bivariate, and multivariate analysis of the baseline survey conducted by Caritas, a Spanish NGO, in a sample population of families in precarious housing conditions. The purpose of this analysis was to describe the housing and health characteristics of the baseline population, compare health indicators of the baseline population to those of the overall population of Barcelona, and examine the association between housing conditions and health outcomes in the sample population."

    Influences on career plans: "This internship demonstrated to me some of the challenges present in doing research in a global health capacity, especially regarding cultural differences and communication issues. I see now how lack of understanding of cultural nuances can very greatly impact a study, and I have a better appreciation for the importance of the relationships formed with partnership institutions in the countries where the study will take place. I very much enjoyed this work and believe that the challenges are worth working through in order to achieve greater cross-cultural understanding of health."

  • Clare Meernik, Epidemiology, Tanzania

    Clare Meernik in Tanzania"Non-AIDS-Defining Cancers in HIV Patients in Tanzania"
    Ocean Road Cancer Institute (ORCI) in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

    What Clare did: "My research project was a secondary analysis involving the abstraction of data from medical records regarding four specific non-AIDS-defining cancers (NADCs): thyroid cancer, ano-rectal cancer, squamous cell carcinoma of the eye, and Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Over 12 weeks I collected data from 2002-2012 of approximately 1200 cancer cases from ORCI, the only cancer hospital in Tanzania."

    Contributions to the field: "I hope my research will provide a better understanding of the current cancer burden and its relation to HIV in Tanzania. I hope this research can be a stepping stone for more involved and long-term studies that address cancer incidence in the HIV population, which can ultimately lead to better cancer prevention and control."

  • Kathryn Thompson, Environmental Health Sciences, Peru

    "Gastric Cancer and the Infection of Helicobacter pylori in Lima, Peru: the Role of Contaminated Water"
    Ministry of Health of Peru in Lima, Peru

    What Kathryn did: "The overall objectives of the project are to establish a correlation between the contamination of drinking water with H. pylori and gastric cancer and to identify appropriate water treatment technologies able to minimize H. pylori contamination. This summer, I worked primarily in the environmental control laboratory in the Environmental Health Division of the Ministry of Health of Peru (DIGESA). There, tap water samples from patients’ homes were collected and tested for H. pylori presence and quantity."

    Contributions to the field: "This summer our research was presented to the Pan American Health Organization’s Inter-American Network of Food Analysis Laboratories and the College of Peruvian Microbiologists. Through these organizations, we were able to bring more exposure to the topic of Helicobacter pylori, how contaminated water may increase the rate of gastric cancer, and the importance of treating drinking water."

  • Joshua Bogus, Health Management and Policy, Ghana

    Joshua Bogus in GhanaJoshua Bogus in Ghana"Ghana National Ambulance Service"
    National Ambulance Service in Accra, Ghana

    What Josh did: "The purpose of the internship was to conduct a survey to assess the general population’s knowledge surrounding ambulances and emergency medical care and barriers to accessing such care. I worked with an advanced EMT from the National Ambulance Service to implement the survey in the Greater Accra region. We spent the internship period completing pilot testing and data collection. I will be working with US-based researchers to complete data analysis and write-up in the coming months."

    Personal development achieved: "During my time in Ghana, I came to appreciate the breadth of areas that touch on global health. Sanitation, sewers, and water treatment are obvious examples of how urban planning can impact population health. An effective emergency medical service [also] relies on a broad set of necessary infrastructure - telecommunications networks, roads, traffic laws (giving emergency vehicles right of way), and street names and addresses. Now, when I consider policies affecting public health, I am aware of just how far of a horizon of factors I need to consider."

  • Meghan Monson, Health Behavior/Health Education, Thailand

    "HIV Prevention and Health Promotion Internship"
    UNESCO in Bangkok, Thailand

    What Meghan did: "I primarily helped develop materials for a short course on adolescent development and conducted a regional review of National Strategic Plans for countries in Asia. I was also able to participate in the adolescent development short course with officials from Asia and the Pacific, and to attend a stakeholders meeting for a new organization developed and run by young key affected populations."

    Contributions to the field: "As a result of this internship experience, I hope to contribute a deeper knowledge of the issues of HIV and sexual health in Asia and the Pacific. I have a much better idea of how policy influences change and also how culture affects development. I think this experience was ultimately valuable because it made me a more well-rounded public health student."

  • Abigail Doucette, Epidemiology, Malawi

    Malaria Alert Centre in Malawi"Peri-domestic environmental risk factors for malaria in urban and rural Malawi"
    International Centers of Excellence in Malaria Research, Blantyre Malaria Project, Michigan State University, and University of Michigan in Blantyre, Malawi

    Abigail Doucette in MalawiWhat Abigail did: "I worked as a research assistant to an urban malaria study being conducted through International Centers of Excellence in Malaria Research in Blantyre, Malawi. I accompanied the project's field worker on study subject home visits and assisted with oral surveys and observational data collection. My specific research question focused on urban agriculture and animal husbandry as exposures, and I was responsible for that data collection."

    Most valuable about the experience: "The home visiting aspect of the field work was extremely valuable. I can't emphasize this enough. By seeing our subjects and their living conditions, I now have a detailed context into which I'll be able to frame my data analysis. This experience prompted new questions and new understandings about the collected data, as well."

  • Rob Walker, Epidemiology, Zimbabwe

    Poster in Zimbabwe"Establishing the Electronic TB Surveillance Database in Harare, Zimbabwe"
    University of Zimbabwe, College of Health Sciences

    What Rob did: "The first portion of the internship was developing the electronic form for the TB electronic registry. After viewing samples of the paper-based registry, I created variables, a codebook, and made the electronic form using the Epi Info program. The second portion of the internship was establishing the electronic database. I was transported to three out of the thirty-one health clinics within the Harare province to begin transferring the paper registries into an electronic registry."

    Personal development achieved: "I've learned a lot about myself and how to work independently. This was my first experience being in a developing country and also the longest I've been isolated physically from everything I've ever known. I feel more confident about what I can accomplish with my life. If I can enter Zimbabwe during a time of elections and start something as great as an e-register for TB infection, than I can do just about anything."

Background on GPHI Internships

Students in most UM SPH master's degree programs are required to complete an internship or some type of field experience between their first and second year. Many students focus their internship on health issues within international or internationally related contexts.

SPH students interested in finding a global health field placement should begin by working with their department advisor. Additionally, an annual funding competition is held each winter term for SPH students conducting global health internships.

Documenting Your Experience

We encourage students to document their global expeiences through blogging, photography and videos. Guidelines, resources, advice, and information for success in documenting your experience are online: