Summer 2010: My Experiences as a Global Health Leadership Intern

By Chelsey Barrios
Williams College Student
Summer 2010 (June 8-August 12) Global Health Leadership Intern

As a summer Global Health Leadership Intern, I had the amazing opportunity to become immersed in the world of global health as I worked to develop educational materials in close collaboration with role model Jennifer Staple-Clark (the CEO and founder of Unite For Sight) and other inspiring and passionate Unite For Sight Interns, Fellows, and staff.  I have always had a deeply engrained interest in public health, medicine, community development, and sustainable creativity, but prior to my internship, I had no hands-on experience in this field.  Interning at Unite For Sight was an incredible place to start, and my involvement this summer has confirmed and further ignited my desire to work in the nonprofit sector and, more specifically, with Unite For Sight.

On a daily basis, my tasks consisted of extensively researching and writing about pivotal current global health issues.  Through investigation and exploration of a wide range of sources including medical journals, blog posts, academic articles, books, videos, and narratives, my knowledge about the history and the future of global health expanded exponentially each day.  Progressively, I have gained a more comprehensive understanding of the many factors influencing the future of global health and community development projects, including the importance of cultural competency, how to build sustainable social enterprises, and the potential barriers to delivering care.

Throughout my internship, I developed the following educational materials:

As my immersion into the universe of global health literature deepened, so did my appreciation for Unite For Sight’s Global Health University, a collection of materials designed to educate the public in global health issues and help inspire social change.  In the many weeks I spent scouring the multitude of available public health resources, not once did I encounter a similar program offering comprehensive modules and training in global health that is free to the public.  I feel privileged to have contributed to this important and distinctive project, and am grateful for everything that I learned through the process.

Perhaps the aspect of this internship that I enjoyed most was the unique and engaging environment of Unite For Sight.  I learned not only from the research that I conducted, but also from working in such close quarters with people who are similarly deeply fascinated, knowledgeable, and engrossed in the world of global health.  Daily discussions about current Unite For Sight research and projects or recent global health happenings would inevitably develop into captivating and enlightening conversations.  The atmosphere at Unite for Sight is one that inspires intellectual curiosity and encourages interns to pursue subjects that they are passionate about.  Instead of robotically performing cut-and-dry assignments, Global Health Leadership Interns are entrusted with an amazing amount of freedom to design an individualized path of study based on personal interests.  I vividly remember Jennifer telling me on my first day that if I had a stimulating idea, or encountered anything attention-grabbing while exploring articles, to “run with it” and create a course on the subject.  This is when I realized that this internship was not going to include stereotypical intern coffee runs and copy-machine busy work, but would instead allow me to begin to understand the complexities of global health delivery and make tangible contributions to Unite for Sight's commitment to creating real and lasting impact.  The article I wrote about “Cataract Surgery Across Time” originated from a casual conversation in the office, a seedling that then grew into an extensively researched article.  The work environment at Unite For Sight is one that truly inspires creativity, curiosity, awareness, and a sense of independence.

I would strongly recommend this internship to anyone passionate about public health.  Not only did I learn a remarkable amount about the field of global health, but I was allowed an exclusive look at the incredible inner-workings of Unite For Sight as an organization.  Observing Unite for Sight’s daily behind-the-scenes happenings allowed me to gain a deeper understanding about the organization’s model, and I am now able to recognize the short-comings and flaws in the approaches of some other “good-intentioned” organizations.  Interacting with Jennifer closely on a day-to-day basis is an amazing opportunity, and I am certain that I could work here forever and continue to learn new things each and every day.  The Global Health Leadership Summer Internship has inspired me to become actively involved in the field of public health and the work of Unite For Sight, and I am eager to continue my education in global health and continue to contribute to social change and global healthcare delivery.