Having worked with Healthy Waltham closely for the past few months, I have come to appreciate the complexity and effort that goes into nonprofits. Organizations like Healthy Waltham rely on a vast variety of people to promote healthy eating and living. It takes all kinds of people within the organization to push an idea, and community members are equally, if not more, important in creating change. It’s a team effort in which everyone invests. When the community members are engaged and interested, it works.
But not everything works out all the time. You just have to make the best of it. A large part of my internship was supposed to be teaching a healthy cooking class, but the class ended up being canceled. The kids preferred other activities. I felt really disappointed in myself for not creating a class the students wanted to keep.
I could have seriously increased my fun-time with fewer obligations at the internship, but I focused my attention on programming and administrative projects instead. For example, reporting methods for events and programs was fragmented since HW gained 501c3 status, so I created an online survey. Moving forward, we should be able to see information like where and how most of our time is spent. That information will help answer questions raised at a strategic planning meeting about how HW is growing and how it should focus.
Now that I have learned a bit about community health from one nonprofit’s perspective, I want to learn how research is applied to public health. Although I wish to pursue a research and medical career, I want to remain involved in public health. The most important improvements in the population’s health has been through public health initiatives rather than scientific discoveries (see “Medical measures and the decline of mortality” by John B. McKinlay and Sonja M. McKinlay). The next step would be something in translational medicine or research! It has always sounded exciting, but how to get my foot in the door…?
Even though my internship is over, I am now a real employee. If someone wants to be involved with Healthy Waltham or a similar health organization, just reach out! Take the initiative to start the conversation and show them you are interested. You will likely need several emails, phone calls, meetings, or a combination; but if you are dedicated and passionate, you will find someone who could give you the chance. You never know where you will end up.
– Yuki Wiland ’15