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Equihua ’20 Eye-Opening Experience with the Health Department

Artie Equihua ’20 Montgomery County Health Department – My position as intern for the Montgomery County Health Department has provided a surplus of memories along with valuable knowledge and life lessons. The people in which I am blessed to work with day in and day out have shown me the importance of communication and education within all aspects of public health. Through this internship I have learned how to effectively communicate information to people of various backgrounds and learning abilities. We have had to utilize these communication skills while visiting homes of people in unsanitary conditions that need to be educated on how to keep themselves healthy. From an individual who grew up in a clean house thanks to his knowledgeable parents, I have taken a clean and orderly house for granted. My time visiting homes of hoarders, drug addicts, and the ill has humbled me beyond belief. My core values have been altered to tolerate the actions of others first, rather than condemn. This position has opened my eyes to a world that is lacking healthy communication. In fact, it didn’t even take me one week to realize it.

Within my first three days of working, I was assigned to go to the next house inspection with our house inspector. We were assigned a “hoarder house” belonging to a woman whose relative had shown quite concern about the living conditions. It was essential that in cases like this, to be instructed on how to conduct yourself while inside the house. For starters, you must be aware of your eyes, tone of voice, and word choice throughout the duration of the inspection. In case of a hostile interaction with a resident, one must always have an exit plan established for each room. In addition, one must evaluate the condition of the resident. Whether it be stress level, cleanliness, any indicators of mental illness, and many other tell-tale signs of variables that can alter how one should converse with the resident. Within those three days, what truly made me observe the importance of my job was the gratitude and sheer joy the woman from my first house inspection displayed. Within a month, we had provided enough education and assistance that she could then manage on her own, and we were allowed to close her case. Throughout my time with the health department, I have visited multiple houses, food establishments, hotels, and schools, inspecting food, water samples, septic tanks, and even catching and studying the mosquitoes in the area. Working in environments that are uncomfortable and challenging has instilled a sense of pride and devotion to the work that I do to better the health of others.

Another large aspect of my internship involved research with mosquitoes. Each day we would set traps out across the county and collect them each day. The mosquitoes we caught and identified allowed the state to test them for harmful diseased such as West Nile, Zika, Chikungunya and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever. I knew very little about mosquitoes at the start; however, I learned quickly. It didn’t take me long to develop a fascination for the fact that the research we were conducting could affect people all over the world. Through our research with the mosquitoes, we were successful in identifying mosquito concentrations in each city within the county. In addition to the capturing, identifying, and analyzing mosquitoes and their population trends, we were also instructed on how to effectively reduce mosquito populations to reduce the biting rate and overall, reduce the rate of disease. These educational lessons enabled me to teach others about mosquitoes and how to combat them.

On top of all of the work involving inspections and mosquito research, I was in charge of making and presenting informational fliers, billboards, radio recordings and health presentations. I have successfully created a plethora of educational presentations, some of which covering local vectors, Medicaid, and Medicare. I have utilized several computer programs to accomplish day to day work such as Microsoft Excel and Photoshop. My position with the health department has allowed me to attend town meetings and local councils that are all attempting to better the community. Each event has grown my confidence when working with people of different professions and with far more schooling and education than I.