Joshua Scott ’22 — In my time with the Saint Joseph County Public Health Department, I have primarily worked with their Vector Unit. The main role that this entails going around the county to set and collect traps for mosquitoes which we then identify the species of and test for West Nile or send out to test for Eastern Equine Encephalitis. This allows us to determine if populations of mosquitoes need to be fogged with pesticides to reduce the risk of transmission to nearby people.
In my time, the biggest lesson that I have learned is just how underfunded local government, especially Saint Joseph County, really is. The department has had to spread its resources extremely thin with COVID-19 and is still trying to recover from this. On top of the pandemic, as far as per capita funding, the Public Health Department in Saint Joe is bad for Indiana, and Indiana is bad for the United States. Without appropriate funding, it is extremely difficult to properly treat the issues that the county faces.
Andrew Klabunde ’22 — Over the last month of my internship at the Fountain & Warren Health Department, I have learned that public health extends well beyond food safety. This internship has helped me to see that the health department plays a major role in helping the public get vaccines, installing septic systems, maintaining vital records like birth and death certificates, and much more! Beyond these, I have also learned that the health department plays a major role in event planning. As an intern, I have been given the opportunity to attend a meeting with the health department’s environmentalist where I saw the behind the scenes planning of a Luke Bryan concert. From this experience, I learned there were a lot of moving parts required for the success and safety of the event. Additionally, I was later given the opportunity to attend a commissioner meeting with the health department’s environmentalist where I learned about the politics behind what the health department is and is not allowed to do.
Overall, my experience with the health department has been amazing! I have been given the opportunity to learn about many areas of health that I had never thought about before. Moreover, I have been able to see how many positions within the community all tie together regarding public health. As a result, seeing the health department work with many different groups has helped me understand the reality that public health is impacted by a large variety of sources. In all, it has been a truly enlightening experience so far.
Thomas Gastineau ’23 — My summer internship at Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) has been a great experience. Our main project is to find a solution to the nursing shortage in rural eastern Kentucky. Before the pandemic, hospitals have struggled to find enough nurses to be fully staffed and offer the best quality care to patients, and the pandemic only made the problem worse. The main hospital in Pikeville, Pikeville Medical Center, was offering massive sign-on bonuses and benefits to nurses to come to Pikeville, but that still could not fill the shortage. The hospital had to spend around $40 million hiring travel nurses to cover what the local workforce could not provide. That is just one example of the many hospitals in the area that struggle to find nurses. There are many reasons for the shortage, including a large elderly population with a higher proportion of chronic illnesses, a solid push to leave Appalachia due to decreased perceived economic opportunity, a brain drain, and socioeconomic issues influencing postsecondary education. As I noticed very quickly within this internship, the problems within rural eastern Kentucky are very complex.
At the beginning of the internship, I was excited to travel to Pikeville, KY, and visit SOAR’s main office for about two and a half weeks. While I was in Pikeville, it was all about learning from the community and making connections. We met with nurses, the health department, high school counselors, nursing colleges, and possible financial stakeholders to discover information on the nursing community and struggles in the region. When we were in Pikeville, we also visited many businesses and museums to understand the history and culture of the area, which the many Appalachians take great pride in. This helped us connect our program with the community and make more significant connections when speaking with locals. While in Pikeville, we tried to learn as much about the community we could. It was partially a culture shock, but it was one of the prettiest places I have ever been.
For the last two weeks, I have been working from home, and I miss the connections I made in Pikeville. It is way different working from home, and I wish I was still in the office. We are also now working on writing and putting everything we learned on paper. We are taking all that information and deciding on what type of program would best impact the nursing shortage. We are considering cost/benefit analyses, amount of job creation, and most impactful for the community’s health. As of now, we are thinking an interactive health care career/college fair and a summer mentorship program would be the best programs. The healthcare college/career fair would be a simple and inexpensive way to expose students to what careers in healthcare are like, and the area has not had a career fair in a very long time. The mentorship program would be more expensive but equip students with guidance, growth in necessary soft skills, and shadowing experiences to interest them and prepare them for a career in nursing. We are now planning and writing a business plan to show hospitals and stakeholders what we think is the best long-term solution to the nursing shortage. I have lately had to channel my inner businessman and learn about budgeting and writing a business plan. It was initially a struggle, but I am slowly getting the hang of it. Overall, I have learned a lot from this experience. I have learned a lot about rural healthcare and its struggles. I have learned about a unique community that has many internal struggles. Finally, I have learned to expand my business horizons. I look forward to learning even more, these next four weeks.
Kody Witham ’22 — Working with Shaping Our Appalachian Region, Inc. (SOAR) has been a blessing this summer. I have met many great, selfless, people that are dedicated to their communities. I have never worked for a non-profit organization before, so this is a unique experience for me. SOAR is dedicated to connecting the Appalachian region and working as a community. One of the first things I have learned from this internship is the value of teamwork. In the Appalachian region, especially around Pikeville, I have seen extremely successful counties and counties that were not as successful. In Kentucky, there is a sense of pride for the county in which you are from and a sense of rivalry towards neighboring counties. It has been an amazing experience watching how SOAR has attempted to overcome these obstacles and provide a network connecting all regions in the Appalachian area. They are attempting to work as a team and unite the whole Eastern Kentucky region so that everyone can prosper together.
Our mission as interns this summer has been to assist in the construction of a mentorship program to help high school-aged kids from underserved communities connect with a role model to guide them in the process of pursuing higher education. Specifically in this region, there has been a shortage of nurses at local hospitals, and our mentorship has had an emphasis on getting these students interested in the nursing field. Through this process, I have learned most about being selfless and committed to your community. A lot of the members of SOAR are native to this region and are committed to improving the lives of the kids of the community. This internship has also shown me the importance of having a role model in your life. Many students come from a background where higher education is a foreign subject to their families because of the prominent coal industry that was a staple in their region many years prior. Through this mentorship, we hope to provide these kids with an outlet to pursue their dreams and give them the confidence to pursue a degree of their choosing so that they too can be contributing members of their community.
Don Silas ’24 — I’ve had a great time in Pikeville working with SOAR. Kody Witham, Thomas Gastineau, and I came in person on June 2nd. On the first day, we met with Dr. Margaret Riggs from the CDC to talk about the health issues the region faces in terms of poverty, rural limitations of healthcare access, and obesity. We also got to learn about the economic development work SOAR does and how that ties us to the nursing shortage.
Since then we’ve been working on starting a program to bolster Eastern Kentucky’s health with a targeted nursing mentorship program for students in poverty. This has involved getting in contact with the local health department for pike county, interviewing with local universities/colleges, and talking to current nurses. It has been reassuring that many of the people we talk to agree that mentorship is the best way to get students out of poverty while also educating them about health. Overall I felt a strong sense of community from those working on the issue.
While in Pikeville I’ve also got to immerse myself in the local scenery. The greenery here is outstanding and meeting new people now that many of the covid restrictions are being lifted has added to the experience. There are also many landmarks or the old Hatfield and McCoy feuds.
Ben Jansen ’24 — Working at the Noble County Health Department, I have been given a hodge-podge of tasks to complete with my time here. All these tasks have been interesting to me because they are new experiences, meaning I am learning a lot. First, I was tasked with data analytics. I oversaw researching the county’s number of COVID cases by location, demographic, and time. In the process, I made a helpful video to visualize the spread of COVID-19 around the county throughout the pandemic. Next, I was tasked with marketing. I had to work on updating billboards and other signage around the county to advertise vaccines. Along the same lines, I oversaw the development of the department’s Facebook page from almost the ground up. Now our Facebook is on a routine posting schedule and has been influential in gaining interest in mobile vaccine clinics that we have held. Finally, I have been tasked with aiding in our COVID-19 vaccine clinics. Tasks for this include planning, setting up, and running these clinics all around the county. We have only had one of the four planned clinics, but we had a great turnout at this event so it will be exciting to see how many more people we can help throughout the county.
One special experience that I had was the other day. The health department threw together a celebration for all the volunteers that helped at the vaccine clinic since January of this year. For this event, I oversaw the planning of some logistics, making certificates, making a thank you video to the volunteers, setting up, and serving the volunteers while there. This event was a great success. It was heartwarming to be able to give back to all the citizens of Noble County who have given so much of their time to help others.
Overall, I have learned a lot. I not only have learned about data analytics, marketing, or event planning, but about the importance of public health and how the county works to
improve upon this every day. From food inspections to vaccine clinics, all the workings in the health department are to better serve the residents where I live. Every day I am happy to learn about how our county is taking measures to be safe and aid in the process. As a person who was not originally well versed in marketing or event planning, I realized from this internship that anyone can practice public health at a level well enough to protect others.
Connor Wakefield ’23 — This summer I got an internship with the local health department here in Montgomery County. The Montgomery County Health Department (MCHD) is responsible for all manner of health-related things that you would not normally need to see a doctor or other health care provider for. Services include things like birth and death records/certificates, water samples, STI testing, immunizations, vector control, etc. Of course, we have also been doing a lot of covid testing and vaccinations.
One of the major projects that I have been working on has been combing through and collecting data on overdose rates within Montgomery County. MCHD will then be able to use the information and conclusions that I have been coming making to create plans that will revolve around prevention measures. Prevention measures are one of the major goals of any health department and was something that I was not aware of when starting this internship. Of course, now during the halfway point, I can successfully say that I now fully understand that prevention measures are just as important if not more important than primary care to ensuring a good level of public health.
Another major job that all the interns have been given for this summer was working with vector control. Specifically, for us, that vector is mosquitos. Although it is useful to point out that a vector is any animal that can carry infectious diseases. To successfully be able to do vector control, we first are tasked with catching mosquitoes. To do this, we set up traps that are designed to lure in female mosquitoes. We only want to capture the females because they are the actual ones that bite people. Males do not. This is due to the female mosquitoes requiring blood to have the nutrients necessary for laying eggs. Of course, the bite is also when infectious disease could be spread to the target. There are many infectious diseases that mosquitoes could be carrying, but the biggest threat for Montgomery County would be West Nile Virus. Once we lay a trap and capture some mosquitoes, they are frozen and then counted. After counting, we ship them off to the State Health Department to be tested for any infectious disease. As of right now though, no mosquitoes have tested positive for carrying any sort of infectious disease. Once again, this is a form of preventative care by trying to stop people from getting something like West Nile. By capturing and testing mosquitoes, we can gather data and inform the public on how to have a fun and safe summer disease free. Also, at the bottom of this letter will be an attached picture of Andrew and myself out at North Montgomery Highschool checking in on a trap we laid.
The final task that I have been given thus far this summer has revolved all around covid-19. About once a week I will be doing all covid testing. This testing is of course very similar to what we did in Chadwick Court during the school year. Also, during the days of our vaccine clinics, I will help with scribing. My job there is to complete appointments patients have, fill out covid cards, and take note of which injection was given and where it was given. Altogether, I have been able to learn a lot this summer and am really enjoying my time here at MCHD.
Vincent Alexander ’24 — Crooked Creek Food Pantry (CCFP) was an amazing experience. It gave me an opportunity to step out of my comfort zone, begin new and wonderful relationships, and create meaningful change; I left the internship having learned tenfold what I had expected. From the daily operation of the pantry, to the many van-trips the interns and I took, I loved and appreciated the entire experience.
Beginning with the running of the pantry as well as the volunteers and interns, I had no idea what I was in store for. I began the internship barely knowing Camden Cooper and vaguely knowing Jerry Little. This would soon change majorly. Camden, Jerry, and I went from awkwardly talking each other, that to avoid silence, to creating endless inside jokes and genuine ebullience at each other’s arrival every day. We now have dozens of memories that include cooking steak for the whole pantry to prove superior cooking ability over Mari, (volunteer who had worked at a restaurant) to “racing” each and every day to the pantry in an attempt to be first, to hundreds of cans falling on us after a faulty wheel on a cart broke. To lastly frame how much different my relationship with the interns is now versus May: Jerry and I went from rarely speaking to each other in freshmen tutorial to texting each other which books we should read next. All in all, I have gained two phenomenal people that I can call friends. The volunteers/managers did a great job at making the internship that much more enjoyable. For example, Mari was a woman from the Dominican Republic that worked as a chef for a 2 Michelin starred restaurant as well as she spoke Russian, Spanish, English, and a little bit of French. She would take an hour – two hours every other day to help me learn Spanish so that I could better interact with our clientele; She recommended me apps that make Spanish most easily learnable and countless podcasts I could listen to while working at Lowes to keep the learning going. The interns and I would cook for the whole pantry in an attempt to get the most compliments from volunteers, so we could know who the better cook was (This was a lot of fun). The volunteers also taught me through their stories, like an older man that came in every Wednesday whose name was Bob. His intellect was so great that during his junior year of high school, he got an offer from IU’s law school to attend the university fully for free. He then began feeling nauseous weeks later and went to the doctor to find out he had contracted a rare disease from a mosquito that would slowly eat away at the plasticity of his brain in an almost identical way that Alzheimer’s does. Because of this unforeseen illness, he ended up not being able to participate in his scholarship and his career was flipped entirely. Stories like this were hard to hear, but when being told this, Bob was not saddened or cynical, instead he was happy that him and his wife, Barb, could give to the needy. This resonated with me and allowed me to look inside myself to when I act with sloth or ungratefulness, to re-think those feelings as I am beyond blessed and I should fully appreciate what I have. The volunteers, in my perception, provided me with the good and the bad (both great in the long run), with good being the smiles, laughs, and memories and the bad being the hard lessons and lifestyles I was not cognizant of that made me re-think things going on in my life and my attitude towards them.
The clientele was the best part of the internship. I wish I could put how I feel about this part of the internship into better words, but I cannot, the feelings given to me from the distribution of food to the clientele cannot be articulated; any attempt would be in vain. On Monday and Tuesday, we sorted donations and picked up food from food banks, then Wednesday through Friday, the food was given away. The days we gave away food was eye-opening and joy-filling. There was no better feeling than seeing the face of someone in need light up as we help make their ends meet and their life hindrances eased, even if just a little. The clientele we had was ever changing; we had an extremely diverse range of people needing food. From regular joes to people fresh off the boat of Haiti who only spoked Haitian Creole. We can only imagine how hard it was for these people to make a living for themselves as they suffered a language block and did not have an American Citizenship. All this in mind, it was comforting knowing we could provide nutritional assistance to these people’s lives. It provided me with an overwhelming feeling of humbleness and created an eagerness in me to help as much as I could. I had never truly seen this side of poverty as I grew up in a loving and stable environment that somewhat sheltered me from knowing how others less fortunate lived. The clientele, although unknowingly, taught me lessons of generosity, appreciation, and humbleness; for that I am forever grateful.
The global health initiative, provided to me through Wabash, has eternally changed the man I had thought I was. Never did I think that eight weeks could provide me with such change and self-reflecting. Countless lessons were engrained in me and amazing people I have gained as friends, all through the Crooked Creek Food Pantry. I would like to take this time to thank Jill Rogers, Steve Claffey and everyone involved in the GHI for changing how I see things. This initiative has bettered me far more than it will ever know.
Andrew Jamison ’22 — In my first week at the health department, I scribed for vaccines, administered COVID tests, trapped mosquitos, performed food inspections, and worked on special projects about mental health and substance abuse. I was astonished to see how much the health department was responsible for. I learned about preventative strategies used to improve health for all. I call this “the other side” of healthcare, as many picture only a doctor’s office; however, there is much going on at a public health level that is not seen. I enjoy sharing my experiences to others, especially about why we collect mosquitos. People are always shocked until they learn all I know, or in their words, too much about mosquitos.
Speaking to a Hispanic man during a covid test opened my eyes to caring for the underserved. He was immediately more comfortable, even though I was more nervous as I used my Spanish for the first time in this setting. It was an exciting thing to know that what I had been working on had finally paid off and I was actually using my Spanish in a useful way. I also witnessed how the Hispanic community was underserved locally as well as the lack of Spanish speakers available to help in this situation. Learning about social determinants of health and witnessing it are two different experiences. On my first home unfit for human habitation walkthrough, I was overwhelmed with emotion. I could immediately see the privilege that I grew up with. I don’t know that I would be where I am today while having to deal with the stressors of that environment. The people living in the home didn’t have or didn’t know of resources to help. I thought back to one of the sayings that said your zip code is more important than your genetic code in determining your health. I saw how vectors of disease, lack of access to physicians, and generational unhealthy behaviors in the surrounding community all contribute
Camden Cooper ’24 — Being able to help at the Crooked Creek Food Pantry/Eskenazi Health Clinic has been an eye-opening experience to the community around me. We have had the privilege to work alongside a Wabash graduate, class of 67’, who has been running this pantry since its opening. One thing that has been brought to my attention is how many people in our communities don’t receive proper nutrition or have trouble affording it. In the clinic, we get to see patients who have troubles with their health due to their diet and nutrition. We can then refer them to the pantry where they can get food with proper nutrition and hopefully help their overall health long term. We have learned that families that don’t have access to proper nutrition are at a higher risk for fatty liver disease (in children) and diabetes.
For this reason, having the pantry connected to the clinic is such a valuable asset for the patients and people in the surrounding community. I have also learned all of the behind-the-scenes actions in order for a pantry such as ours to run efficiently. We are partnered with many different stores, organizations, and groups which help provide food, workers, and give donations to the pantry. With these partners, we can stay stocked with healthy foods for clients and have the proper equipment/help to dispense these goods to our clients.
One eye-opening experience that I have had over this past summer is the number of families who live in these surrounding areas in Indiana who don’t speak any English. A large majority of our clients are Hispanic/Latino and only speak Spanish. Therefore, being able to speak some Spanish is very helpful when trying to help these people. Seeing how much of the population in this community speaks another language showed me just how important it is for us to be more well-rounded in our studies and understanding of different cultures/languages. One thing I found very powerful was that the doctor who I shadowed was bilingual and was able to go from English in one room with one patient to Spanish in the next room with another patient. Experiencing this made me want to continue my studies in Spanish at Wabash.
There were many opportunities for learning and growing through this internship with all the interactions and opportunities on a day-to-day basis. We were able to interact with dozens of volunteers daily who come in and help at the pantry. We worked with them and even managed them all to help the pantry move in the right direction. Every day there was a new task that needed to be dealt with, and this allowed us to grow in our critical thinking skills because we have never experienced food pantry operations and needed to make decisions. Along with helping at the pantry, we shadowed Dr. Nace, one of the Eskenazi doctors, where we got to follow her throughout the day and see what she does in the clinic. I learned many new things from patient to patient, depending on what they were in the clinic. I saw many things that I expected and many new things that I can now put in my medical repertoire. Overall, there was always something new to learn at the pantry or in the clinic every day.
Some great takeaways from this experience are things that I’ve learned and encounters I’ve had with new people. Interacting with the managers at the pantry and learning from the president, I refined my conversational and communication skills. Working hands-on and talking with the people we serve at the pantry gave me the deepest feeling of satisfaction when I saw the smile on their faces or heard them say thank you with great sincerity. The feeling of having the opportunity to help others always fills my heart and makes me thankful I could be a part of such a fantastic experience. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone, even people not on the pre-med track, because of the valuable skills you learn and the memories you’ll make.