On the way to the first day of her summer internship, Maya Wolock listened to Hillary Clinton interview Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha on a podcast. She couldn’t believe she was listening to her direct supervisor speak on a high-profile platform. “I gave myself a case of the first-day jitters,” Wolock said. Her nerves quickly turned to excitement after meeting her fellow interns and the faculty and staff of Michigan State University and Hurley Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Public Health Initiative (PPHI) in Flint.

“One of the highlights of the program so far has been meeting all of the incredible staff at PPHI,” said Wolock. “These incredibly accomplished people are so down-to-earth, kind, and welcoming.”

Flint Sign Interns cropped

(Left to Right) Adhira Hyder, Juee Modi, Julia Mleczek, Nadia Khan, Azhanae Harris, Arryiana Holiday, Ruby Wilson, Molly Killian, Alysa Milton, Antonio Martin, Ethan Hoard, Bushra Hasan, Justin Crouch, Maya Wolock

The PPHI Summer Internship program is a paid internship for undergraduate and graduate students who show a strong interest in pursuing a career in public health. Interns have the opportunity to work on one of the project teams, doing both directed and independent work that will help grow their public health skills and experience.

“Interns may gather data, conduct literature reviews, write summaries or reports, prepare, and organize information, and interact with the Flint community through outreach or program events,” said internship director Jenny LaChance.

The world of public health includes many possible career paths. This year’s 14 interns come from different backgrounds and areas of study, but the mission of improving health outcomes for children is what connects the cohort.

After being introduced to the internship program by her professor, current MSU Master of Public Health (MPH) student Azhanae Harris knew she had to be part of it.

“What inspired me to apply for this internship was the mission statement behind the initiative,” she said. “I am a recent undergraduate from MSU so transitioning into a master’s program here just feels like home. My professors have been very welcoming and have provided me with many resources.” 

After reading Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha’s book, What the Eyes Don’t See, Juee Modi was inspired to pursue a career in public health. “I am drawn to public health because of its roots in social justice and its ability to tangibly improve people's lives through tools like policy, data, communications, and more,” she said.

“I feel an intense commitment for public health work - work that promotes children's long-term health, addresses social determinants of health, and advocates for communities being harmed by forces out of their control, like environmental and racial injustices.”

Modi works on the Communications and Outreach team where she works on creating digital health resource guides and engaging in community outreach events. “I hope to come out of this internship knowing that I was able to positively impact the Flint community, whether that be through fun outreach events or being able to provide useful resources on our website,” she said.

Chicago native Bushra Hasan was inspired to apply for the internship after learning about the meaningful work. “As a child who grew up experiencing poverty, health inequity, and injustice at various levels, I always knew when I grew up, I wanted to make sure no other child experienced these things,” said Hasan.

Working on the Rx Kids team and getting to know her fellow interns have been among the many highlights for Hasan. “After meeting the interns and supervisors, I felt at home. I absolutely love being a PPHI intern.”

Wolock also works on the Rx Kids team. It’s given her the opportunity to learn more about poverty policy, the impact poverty has on children’s health outcomes, and has even been able to contribute to two of the program’s grants. “I am very grateful to be able to contribute meaningfully to a project that I truly believe is transformative,” she said.

Throughout the internship, LaChance expects the students to discover how diverse and fulfilling a career in public health can be. The experience provides hands-on work in areas like nutrition education, public health policy change and advocacy, timely public health services for communities impacted by lead exposure, and poverty solutions to optimize children’s health outcomes.

 “To me, public health is about addressing the root causes of inequity and health disparities: racism, poverty, and systems that prioritize profits over people,” said Modi. “I hope to gain a deeper understanding of the skills and programs needed to disrupt the systems that keep people in cycles of poor health, so I can work against them in the future.”

July 13, 2023