How Yale students touched the lives of people worldwide

As classes come to an end each spring, scores of Yale School of Public Health students fan out around the globe to complete their internship project. Usually lasting 10 to 12 weeks, the internship is a defining experience for most students, exposing them to real-world challenges and giving them a chance to directly apply what they have learned in the classroom. It is, in the words of Dean Paul D. Cleary, a chance “to make a difference in the lives of people.”

Several of those students have posted descriptions of their summer international experience along with photos they took this summer on the School of Public Health website. Below are excerpts from five of those accounts. Others can be found by clicking here.

Children line up to be included in Jonathan Smith’s documentary.

Jonathan Smith
South Africa, Swaziland, and Botswana

If you asked me last spring what I planned for the summer, I probably would have regurgitated my grant proposal’s abstract … However, armed with a camera, a research proposal and the support of my advisors, my summer turned out to be much more than I expected. I worked with Dr. Jhumka Gupta to investigate how contextual factors [i.e., characteristics of the environment] influence HIV and TB vulnerabilities among migrant laborers, specifically gold miners … Driven by the neglect of human rights and the exploitation of labor in the gold mining industry, I also worked diligently on a documentary — “They Go to Die” — which investigates the health outcomes of miners released from the industry with no health infrastructure or health care. The film juxtaposes mining executives’ with co-infected miners who are struggling to stay alive, fusing my research with film and putting a human face on the situation. …

To read more and see his photos, click here.

Mia Kanak (right) and her fellow GHLI intern Hannah Yoon pose with an elderly couple they interviewed for their survey.

Mia Kanak
Shanghai and Shandong, China

I spent two months over the summer with the Yale Global Health Leadership Institute in China researching the impact of community health centers on access to health care in rural areas and on diabetes education in urban areas. … Each of the 17 villages I worked in had its own clinic. Residents of mud houses with no running water surprisingly receive more routine primary care than some residents of urban U.S. communities. This experience inspired me to work with a non-governmental organization to raise funds to build a rural health clinic in BaoDong Village of Guangzhou, one of China’s poorest provinces. I also learned through my research on community health centers that investment in infrastructure is not enough. …

To read more and watch her slide show, click here.

Elyssa Gelman tours an automotive battery factory.

Elyssa Gelmann
Cluj-Napoca, Romania

I spent the summer working at the Environmental Health Center in Cluj, Romania, under the guidance of two YSPH faculty members: Kathleen McCarty and Catherine Yeckel. My research focused on the effects of maternal arsenic exposure through drinking water. … I also spent time researching health care, reproductive health, environmental policy and arsenic exposure in Romania on a broader scale. Becoming familiar with the region was crucial to understanding my subjects’ lifestyles and exposures to other toxins that were of concern. It was a fascinating time to experience Romania and to interact with the people.

To read more and watch her slide show, click here.

Karen Payne prepares equipment in the Colombian lab for another test.

Karen Payne
Cali, Colombia

My internship provided me the opportunity to both explore scientific data while immersing myself in Colombia’s rich culture. I worked alongside Colombians in a laboratory and clinical setting, which broadened my appreciation of scientific research in South America and acquainted me with the strengths and challenges of conducting research in this region. … The goal of my internship was to develop a rapid and sensitive serological test for the detection of [the skin disease] cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Colombia. … The clinical application of such a test could detect the condition in asymptomatic individuals, thus improving diagnosis and, consequently, treatment and recovery. …

To read more and watch her slide show, click here.

Roland Dimaya talks with villagers in Thachock, Laos, about health and education programs for children.

Roland Dimaya
Vientiane and surrounding provinces, Laos; Manila and Batac City, Philippines

Before I left for Southeast Asia, I knew that I would experience the intersection between health policy theories that I learned about in the classroom and real-life applications. What I walked away with, though, was a comprehensive appreciation for the policy development process and the complexities of implementation. In June, I joined Dr. Pia Britto of the Yale School of Medicine on a UNICEF-sponsored project assessing health and education programs for children in Laos. I encountered the full scope of policy stakeholders, from administrators in the central government to provincial health workers, village chiefs and mothers. In this rich cultural setting, I found myself deeply entrenched in the cultural environment and I saw firsthand how such traditions affect health care provision. …

To read more and watch his slide show, click here.

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