Pat Azar ’19 — I have spent the last seven weeks working with the Fountain & Warren County Health Department in Attica, Indiana. This internship has given me great experience in the broad world of public health. One of the main projects I worked on was giving a presentation to the medical staff at the St. Vincent Williamsport Hospital on how to properly fill out the cause-of-death portion of a death certificate. This project really helped me bridge the gap between public health and clinical health as I was tasked with explaining to the medical staff not only the proper way to fill out a death certificate but also why correctly filling them out is crucial for public health. Presenting in front of several physicians was a challenge. I was worried about how I would be received, being a twenty year old undergraduate student presenting to a room of physician who probably had patients waiting on them. They responded well to my presentation. I went through some cases and gave them time to fill out mock cause-of-death certificates and we discussed each case in detail and I explained to them how they should be thinking through each case. My nerves quickly subsided as I was able to facilitate a constructive conversation with the medical staff. Presenting in front of physicians was a success and it really boosted my confidence in my own public speaking abilities.
Working with the public health office showed me the importance of knowing and being involved in your community in the health care world. My post graduate plans include attending medical school and practicing medicine. While working and talking with host Wabash graduate Dr. Sean Sharma and others at the St. Vincent Williamsport Hospital I learned how important being aware of the issues in your community is to practicing good medicine. Luckily, I was able to spend a lot of time in the communities of Fountain and Warren counties. I frequently visited the local parks programs in the cities and towns and along with the nurses would talk to the children about head lice. Also, for the county fairs I made a display on various pest bugs that people may come into contact with during the summer months like mosquitos, ticks, scabies, head lice, and bed bugs, and I talked with people about those issues as they visited our booth at the county fairs. The community interaction was one of my favorite aspects of this internship and public health in general.
I would like to thank the Lilly Endowment for making this opportunity possible. It was an amazing experience and the knowledge and skills I’ve taken away from the past eight weeks will surely help me in my future career.