As an intern for the Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) I have been involved in much more than I ever imagined I could be in such a short amount of time. My ignorance of the Health Department’s duties was plentiful before the internship started, but now I have developed a much better picture of the inner workings of the MCHD. The MCHD is a small office with only five full-time employees. However, what the department lacks in numbers, it possesses in fortitude. I could not have asked for a better group of people to work with. Not only are the people of the Health Department super friendly and caring, but they are also extremely knowledgeable and hard-working. In just five short weeks, I have gained valuable information ranging from the anatomy of a mosquito to the layout of a septic system, none of which would have been possible without my co-workers.
My main job at the Health Department is trapping, identifying, and sending mosquitos off for testing (of West Nile Virus). I have stared at more mosquitos, with a microscope, through this internship than I ever stared at Drosophila melanogaster (fruit flies) in genetics class. Although this can get redundant, I have still thoroughly enjoyed the process of creating a brew (gravid mosquito attractant), setting a trap, and identifying mosquito species for testing. This job has been proved to be very important this year as mosquito populations have skyrocketed in the Midwest as a result of the massive amounts of rain we have received this summer. Almost every spot we have decided to place traps has produced over one hundred mosquitos per trap in an approximately twenty-four-hour cycle. So far there have been no reported cases of West Nile virus and we are thankful for that. However, the virus tends to peak in late July and therefore educating the public on ways to reduce mosquito populations, to minimize the risk involved in mosquito bites, is very important. I have been able to do this on a small scale in the county not only via word of mouth, but I have also received the privilege of writing a couple of articles for the local newspaper. This has been my first experience writing for any publication, and I have found the opportunity to be very rewarding. It is a great honor, privilege, and responsibility to be able to write for your community in a concise, informative and interesting way. Still, mosquito hunter and occasional newspaper writer are not the only tasks I have been involved with at the health department.
I have been to multiple food inspections that shed light not only on the procedures and systems of restaurants but also the precautions that need to be taken to ensure food is safe to be eaten. I am constantly amazed each time I step foot into a food establishment’s kitchen at the care owners, and managers take to ensure not only food quality but also food cleanliness. Even with the care was taken by the respective employees I have been able to see the importance of a food inspector in maintaining clean eating environments and practices. These same practices are important at home as well and sometimes when they are not applied the health department has to step in. This being the case, I have been to several homes that have had unfortunate cockroach infestations or animal troubles and have been able to provide help and information to assist families in leading healthier lives. It is amazing how much improvement can be made on a home by simply educating people on how to keep their houses healthier. All of my time at people’s houses hasn’t just been spent on the inside. I have also learned some of the science of soil sampling when testing for septic system placements and have been able to see the end result of that testing turning into a brand new septic system being put into the ground. The Health Department has provided me with all of these opportunities and many more including water testing, pool testing, customer service, county preparedness, and county meetings. In a few weeks when my internship is over I will have gained valuable experience and information, I will have formed many new relationships and retain unforgettable memories. I thank everyone involved in the Lilly internship program for my opportunity as well as every employee at the Health Department for making my experience possible and very pleasant.