First and foremost, I would like to extend my deepest thanks to the Brandeis Hiatt Career Center for this opportunity.
Prior to this internship, I knew nothing about hepatitis B. After reading scientific papers my first day, I realized the complexity of hepatitis B and the importance of educating the public about it. (In fact, I even went home and urged my family members to check their immunity status.) I then read Charles B. Wang Community Health Center’s hepatitis B educational comic book and was trained to administer comic book evaluation surveys. For the next three weeks, research was underway: I asked patients in the waiting rooms of the Health Center to read the comic book and complete an evaluation. Each surveying day was different. Sometimes, I would encounter lots of willing participants; other days, there was less success. I especially loved it when patients had questions about the comic because interesting conversations would often ensue.
During the second half of my internship, I input data from 100 surveys into Microsoft Excel, analyzed subpopulations (by gender, education level, and language preference), and created tables/graphs summarizing overall trends. Finally, I wrote an abstract for the 2018 American Public Health Association conference describing the results of our health education material evaluation. Since the evaluation is now complete, 10,000 copies of the comic book (English, Chinese – other translations coming soon) will be printed and shipped to 30 national public health organizations by the end of the month – just in time for World Hepatitis Day. Aside from conducting research, I participated in Project ECHO clinic video conferences, comic book dissemination meetings, press conference planning meetings, and research grand rounds. Some of my other projects included mapping out comic book distribution sites and making a program for the hepatitis B press conference hosted by the Health Center (see pictures below).
Overall, I felt that my tasks were meaningful, not just busywork. I genuinely enjoyed surveying and analyzing data, especially since I had personal interactions with each of the participants. Although my responsibilities fell under the research department, my supervisors were supportive in helping me get clinical experience, too. They are among the many good natured people I have met at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center, and I have learned so much from their mentorship. Ultimately, this internship helped me develop a strong interest in immigrant population health, and instilled in me the importance of language fluency and health advocacy.
I highly recommend interning at a non profit organization. Some facilities are understaffed, but you will really get to see the impact you’re making. You will also learn more from the population you serve than you ever could from a textbook. By no means is social justice work easy. It requires unrelenting devotion, grit, and love for people. However, being on the forefront of change is extremely rewarding.
If you are considering a career in health care, my advice to you is to be openminded. Shadow various occupations, pay attention to job satisfaction levels, and observe what day-to-day life is like before pursuing a specific field. If any of this resonates with you, I wish you the best of luck on your career path! Everyone’s journey is different, but thank you for joining me on mine.
-Michelle Yan ’19