Borland ’22: Behind the Scenes at the Montgomery County Health Department

William Borland ’22 — My name is William Borland, and for the past eight weeks, I have been an intern at the Montgomery County Health Department. My responsibilities in the office have included the continued development of the Drug–Free Montgomery County (DFMC) website, as well as designated driver and “brew”-master for the vector control unit known as the SWAT (Surveillance of Water and Airborne Transmitters) team. With these roles, I was able to contribute to the pursuit of general health and welfare for the populace of Montgomery County.   

One of the responsibilities as an intern at the MCHD is the SWAT team. As interns, our job was to regularly set traps that attracted insects with a special mixture of alfalfa and water that, to the bane of man and beast alike, reeks something awful. Caught mosquitos were labeled to the best of our ability and sent to the Indiana State Department of Health to be tested for various pathogens such as West Nile Virus, Malaria, and Chikungunya. The responsibilities of the SWAT team are an example of how the health department is on the front lines of prevention; the goal is to prevent the spread of infectious diseases rather than mosquito eradication.

My chief role, the development of the DFMC website, has a very similar purpose: prevention. Substance abuse is a topic that is readily discussed and researched, but resources are spread out over the expanses of the internet and tucked away in corners not regularly accessed by the community. My job was primarily to find resources for prevention/education, treatment, and recovery to compile onto an easy to navigate and centralized website. This way, all the services from Montgomery County, the state of Indiana, and the nation, can be easily accessible and easily distributed. The hope that Samantha (the intern coordinator) and I share is that the site will be a tool for emergency responders, law enforcement, and citizens alike to use to combat the ever-growing epidemic that is substance abuse.

My experiences at the MCHD have given me a much broader understanding of public health, and a deeper respect for it. I think a good analogy for the role of public health is to describe the health department as the offense, and any sort of practiced medicine as the defense. When thinking about community welfare and health, we tend to think about the short-term solutions, like getting treated for an infection or dehydration. What we don’t see are the underlying causes of these problems. We don’t see or think about the malfunctioning septic systems or lack of running water. We don’t see these same people working two to three jobs just to stay afloat, and not having the time or the strength to take care of home responsibilities. All of these things are just a portion of what is on the docket for the health department every day. The health department is the offense that provides resources, pushes inspections to identify disparities in living conditions, advocates for correct construction and facilities development and upkeep, and for the monitoring and eradication of hotspots that could lead to communicable diseases from mosquitos. All of these things are done under the radar to improve the quality of life for the citizens of Montgomery county. As we like to say, a good offense is the best defense, and the health department is the offense that works for the community.

Thank you to the Wabash Global Health Initiative for providing the funds and opportunity for me to experience the workings of a prime example of public health at work. I know the goings-on of this summer will contribute heavily as I look to find what my life will lead and am grateful for the lessons and conversations had along the way.


Martin ’21: Translates for Patients at the Montgomery County Free Clinic

Cameron Martin ’21 — I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative for giving me the opportunity to work at the Montgomery County Free Clinic. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to work as a translator and scribe for the clinic. The Montgomery County Free Clinic helps people who are unable to obtain health insurance and provides free dental and healthcare to these people. A large portion of the population who come into the clinic speak little to no English. Therefore, they require someone who is able to communicate with them in Spanish. Translating for the patients allowed me to be right in the middle of the healthcare experience, where I worked directly alongside doctors, dentists, and nurse practitioners. Having translators or other people who are able to speak Spanish at the clinic helps both medical providers and patients. While working as a translator, I have greatly increased the fluidity and ease in which I am able to have conversations in Spanish. I have had to learn many medical terms and phrases on the job because I have never heard many of these words. Medical Spanish is very different from conversational Spanish and being thrown into the middle of it has made me learn it much faster than I would have any other way. Each day I work at the free clinic, I learn a new word or a new phrase that I did not know the day before. My favorite part about translating is being able to talk to the patients in another language and hear their stories and listen to where they came from. They are always grateful to have someone who will speak to them in Spanish, and they are always helpful when I do not know a word or when something is unclear. I also help do some scribing at the clinic. As a scribe, I worked with the doctor in recording everything that was done during each appointment. This helped the doctors with their charting and allowed them to fully focus on giving care to the patient while I recorded everything. Scribing has taught me to think on my feet and strengthened my listening skills. Things happen fast during an appointment, and I was responsible for making sure it all was written down, and nothing was missed. Overall, my experience at the Montgomery County Free Clinic has been unforgettable. Being able to work alongside health care professionals and help people who would not be able to receive care if the clinic was not there has changed my perspective and outlook on life.


Piesyk ’22 Focuses on Improving Public Health Through Community Engagement

Patrick Piesyk ’22 — First off, I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative, Dr. Milligan, and Jill Rogers for providing this wonderful opportunity. This summer, I was fortunate enough to intern for the St. Joseph County Health Department in South Bend, Indiana. For the duration of my internship at the health department, I was also able to participate in a summer program at the Indiana University South Bend School of Medicine. This summer program focused on community health and the social determinants of health. Dr. Mark Fox, the Deputy Health Officer at the health department and Dean of the IUSB School of Medicine, organized and taught the program alongside Dr. Joe Kotva, who is a professor at the IUSB School of Medicine.  

In addition to the program, I was able to gain clinical experience by volunteering at the Saint Joseph Health System Family Medicine Center. During my internship at the health department, I have experienced a variety of different things. For my major project, I researched ways to combat obesity while accounting for the social determinants of health such as education, income, food access, transportation, neighborhood, and healthcare. After researching and gaining knowledge from the community health summer program, I wrote a paper that included the obesity statistics for St. Joseph County and the nation, what St. Joseph County is currently doing to reduce obesity, and ways to improve these current strategies. Also, I included ways that other states and organizations across the country have had success in combatting obesity. Overall, I learned that government funding, policy changes such as an increased tax on sugary beverages, and donations are successful ways to combat obesity while considering the social determinants of health.

Along with my research, the majority of my internship has included attending elementary school camps. For the elementary school camps, I would assist in developing daily lesson plans and teaching these lessons. Since I interned for the public health education sector of the health department, our education primarily focused on nutrition, physical activity, mental health, sun and water safety, etc. For a typical lesson of forty-five minutes, we would give a brief presentation that was followed with interactive activities that emphasized the importance of the daily lesson. The summer camps we attended were free, so it was truly a great experience offering health education to students of a lower socioeconomic class.

Additionally, I also participated in a community garden camp for a couple of weeks. At one of the local community gardens, they offer a free children’s camp where they teach the students how to garden fruits and vegetables. At this camp, we would prepare a healthy snack such as watermelon slices, banana wraps, vegetable wraps, and would teach the children about the nutritional value and health benefits from eating these snacks. Every Wednesday afternoon, I attended a community health program, where I learned about the social determinants of health. On July 10th, we traveled to Chicago to see their efforts at improving the public health of the community. On the south side of town, we visited an urban garden which ultimately increased access to healthier food in an urban setting. Overall, throughout this program, I learned that poverty and the social determinants of health are all interconnected to an individual’s health. I also learned that someone’s environment can play a more impactful role in their health than their genetics.

Each Friday during my internship, I volunteered at the Family Medicine Center attached to the St. Joseph Hospital. My responsibilities included sanitizing exam rooms, stocking exam rooms with materials, and even rooming patients to take their vitals. I went through a one-day training for taking vitals such as temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and respiration rate. Additionally, I shadowed nurses and doctors while volunteering at the clinic. I am especially grateful for this clinical experience due to my goal of becoming a physician’s assistance or pediatrician. Again, I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative, Dr. Milligan, and Jill Rogers for providing this internship opportunity this summer!


Kiesel ’20: Indiana Rural Health Association Internship

Abraham Kiesel ’20 — As an intern for the Indiana Rural Health Association, my first major project this summer was to convert physical screening tools to online tools using RedCap, which is a little more advanced version of SurveyMonkey. The screening tools will be used by Perinatal Navigators of IRHA partnering organizations to collect data about women’s pregnancy history as part of the Healthy Start Initiative. I worked closely with a staff member and was able to teach her more efficient ways of creating screening tools in RedCap. Together, we accomplished about two weeks of work in less than five days.  I have also assisted my supervisor Dr. Amnah Anwar with various tasks, including finalizing two grant reports necessary to continue receiving funding for her projects.

One of her projects funded through grants is the Indiana Rural Opioid Consortium (InROC). At the annual IRHA conference, Dr. Anwar, a fellow intern, and I presented about InROC at our booth. We provided information to health professionals and students. A unique feature of our exhibit was a mock teenager’s bedroom; it contained 13 hidden fake drugs. We had a challenge in which participants searched the room to find as many drugs as they could in 45 seconds. Most participants found only a couple, and this alarmed them. It became a great conversation starter for them to learn more about substance abuse disorder.

In the future, I look forward to additional presentations regarding our mock teen bedroom that we will be bringing to a few hospitals. I am also eager to shadow administrators of Gibson General Hospital–my county’s hospital–to learn more about the administrative side of healthcare. I would like to thank the Global Health Initiative for this opportunity.