Wilson ’19— St. Joseph County Department of Health in South Bend, IN

Chris Wilson ’19—This summer I am interning with the St. Joseph County Department of Health in South Bend Indiana, predominantly with the health education division. I am involved in a wide variety of activities including, but not limited to, co-teaching a lecture about nutrition to students at a local elementary school, participating in the Reducing Obesity Coalition, and helping to organize the Michiana Opioid Task Force Opioid & Addiction Summit. However, my main task is creating a lead poisoning and prevention education program. This program will be five weeks long and provides general information about lead poisoning, proper nutrition and hygiene to reduce the risk of poisoning, and home cleaning and remediation tips to prevent exposure to lead. Approximately 77% of homes in South Bend have lead based paint, which puts a lot of residents (especially children) at risk for lead poisoning. The purpose of the program is to educate families on what they can do to reduce the risk of lead poisoning, make their home lead safe, and prevent lead poisoning in the future.

I have learned a great deal in the short time that I have been here but one topic that really stands out is social determinants of health. While I had heard about them previously, I did not fully understand how social determinants of health effect an individual’s well-being. A person’s community and socioeconomic status are often as important as one’s genetics in determining overall health.

I plan to become a physician after Wabash so understanding how non-medical factors affect a person’s health is critical knowledge. This internship has provided a foundation of knowledge of how a patient’s community and education effects their health. Also, I have gained a deeper appreciation for public health and how medicine fits into public health. The opportunity to intern with the St. Joseph County Department of Health has provided me with experience in and knowledge of public health while also humbling me by allowing me to serve the community of South Bend.

Unity Garden Camp

The photo on the right is from our time at Unity Garden Camp. It’s a free camp that teaches kids about gardening, environmental sustainability, wellness, etc. We provided healthy snacks to this camp and had an activity/lesson. In this picture, the lesson was about eating a variety of fruits and vegetables. The activity was “Eat the Rainbow.” The kids would draw/write their favorite food of a certain color (e.g. drawing a banana in the yellow part of the rainbow, an avocado in the green part) within the corresponding color on a rainbow.


Whitaker ’19—St. Joseph Health System in South Bend, IN

Whitaker is on the far right, in the green.

Joe Whitaker ’19 – “Things are going really well in South Bend. I’ve been working with Latorya Greene on two major projects. For the first project, I compiled a list of all of the bars in St. Joseph County and I collected info regarding their smoking policies, their structural layout, and any thoughts they might have on going smoke-free. For the second project, I’ve been preparing Indiana Tobacco Quit-Line information packets and delivering them to all of the physicians in network. On Friday’s I work as a volunteer at the family medicine clinic in the St. Joseph’s Regional Medical Center. I do simple things like getting patient’s vitals, cleaning rooms, and restocking supplies, but it’s great to meet people and see the variety of patients that come through the door.

In addition to my two projects, I also do community outreach events where I educate St. Joseph County citizens on the dangers of all forms of tobacco and I help get signatures for a petition. The petition advocates for two things: an increase in the purchase age of tobacco products from 18 to 21 and an increase of the cigarette tax by $1.50. I’ve had to do a lot of

Whitaker on the right in green

information seeking to be able to defend these two proposals but in educating myself I’ve really come to believe in the work we’re doing here. The community outreach programs have really influenced the way I view public health and those individuals who can slip through the cracks of the healthcare system. Ultimately, I’ll take the information I’ve learned here and I’ll carry it forward with me as I begin my career as a health professional.”

Joe is interning with the St. Joseph Health System in South Bend, Indiana.