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DPH Joins Emory in Recognizing Future Public Health Workers

September 3, 2013

Originally published on Oct. 1, 2012

Emory's Rollins School of Public Health recently recognized 20 students at the Pathways to Practice conference, 10 of whom successfully completed internships with the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

The interns worked at 2 Peachtree, the DeKalb County Board of Health and the LaGrange Health District in epidemiology, communicable disease and community coalition.

"I am more prepared for a career in public health," said Dorothy Bota, a candidate for a Masters of Public Health degree in behavioral sciences and health education. Bota, who interned in LaGrange, said the best part of the field placement was getting public health experience outside of the classroom. Her poster presentation addressed HIV and STI Prevention Through Community Health Fair. Like many of the interns, Bota acknowledged how much her mentors, Amessia Chapman and David Lankford, helped her to grasp concepts of what public health really is. Through her experience conducting HIV testing at health fairs, Bota will become a certified HIV tester in February.

Abby Berns' internship at DPH was equally as rewarding.

"I have an increased understanding of the realities of implementing an outbreak response, "she described. "I really enjoyed going out into the community, talking about outbreak control with health care workers. I also enjoyed taking part in an active surveillance system," said Berns.  

This success is exactly what Emory and DPH hope for. Kathy Minor, PhD, MPH, MCHEs, associate dean of applied public health at Rollins School of Public Health, discussed the real essence of the internship program, noting the importance of students developing partnerships with organizations and practice, whether at DPH or a sister agency in the community.

"Because that's where real change in the community happens," Minor said. "And the fact that they had an opportunity to work with the mentors that you are really makes practice happen, makes professionalism happen, and makes community change happen."

DPH's Workforce Development and Training Office through the support of Richard Lasco, PhD and L'laina Rash, MCH, CHES facilitated the success of the internship program.

"The Pathways to Practice conference was a true testament to the bright future of the public health workforce," said Rash. Rash planted the seeds for the internship and partnership program with Emory University in early spring of 2012 and was proud to hear how much the students gained working in the field.

Alicia Cardwell-Brown, community liaison for the DeKalb County Board of Health, was so impressed with Yesenia Merino's assets that she tried to get her to stay beyond her internship. Merino felt that Cardwell-Brown and staff kept her mentally alert and were open to her ideas and suggestions regarding social media, coalition building and community health assessment.

Michael Kelleman is continuing his internship through the fall and Linda Allen-Johnson, STD epidemiology program manager, is ecstatic to have Michael continue his work in streamlining DPH's National Plan and Provider Enumeration System (NPPES), to determine if using their unique identifier would standardize the electronic laboratory reporting (ELR) system.

Brendan Noogle, maternal and child health epidemiologist, said the best part of working with his intern, Ashley Fell, was her enthusiasm.

"It was a lot of work to keep up with Ashley because she was so fast in learning new skills," said Noogle.

Christiana Toomey, whose main project consisted of updating the DPH cancer registry, said she found the opportunity for lifelong learning in public health fascinating.

"I learned a lot about health disparities as it relates to tobacco and lung cancer," described Toomey.