Summer 2011: My Experiences as a Global Health Leadership Intern

By Becca Zod
Washington University at St. Louis
Summer 2011 (May 31-August 5) Global Health Leadership Intern

My experience as a Global Health Leadership Intern was one of learning, excitement, exploring new directions, and diving deep into interesting topics and ideas. Before this summer, I had only had an overview's worth of knowledge about public health. Unite For Sight introduced me to a wide range of global issues and helped me explore topics with such depth that I would not have gained in an academic class.  I was opened up to the knowledge that comes with working in the field, and I was inspired to pursue a path to work for a non-profit like Unite For Sight. Working closely with Jennifer Staple-Clark, my work each day involved researching articles, videos, podcasts, and websites that have expanded my knowledge about current issues in the global health world and encouraged me to think more broadly about different health issues and intervention strategies in different areas around the world. I have gained invaluable knowledge about cultural competency, community development, and intervention strategies, not to mention a broader sense of the world in terms of government, culture, geography, economy, poverty, and environment. 

I had the opportunity to contribute to the Global Health University online certificate program by writing several courses.  I wrote a course on urban health, which discusses urban issues around the globe, ranging from developing cities in Africa to issues in Los Angeles. While researching this course, I learned a great deal about how each city experiences a unique set of health issues, while at the same time how existing patterns are found throughout the globe. Next, I wrote a course on health in conflict zones, which covers many less-obvious effects of wars on citizens of affected countries.  While I learned more about unique health issues, I also gained a more comprehensive knowledge base about recent and current events that tie in to other world issues beyond the topic of health. 

In addition to the courses, I contributed to several promotional materials dealing with eye health. I created drawings, paintings, and works on Photoshop that are now on the Unite For Sight website, or that are used for health education at one of Unite For Sight's partner clinics in Ghana.  My drawings and paintings included a diagram to explain the couching surgery method, a depiction of applying eye drops, and an image that showed not to play with sharp objects near the eyes. Additionally, I created images for the promotion of Unite For Sight's mission. The topic of another image showed that eye disease, particularly cataracts, are universal, and that blindness has socioeconomic implications. Creating these materials was an opportunity to apply my artistic interests to a cause that I care about. Throughout the process of creating these images, I learned a great deal about eye surgery, education techniques, the impacts of eye disease, as well as strategies for creating educational images and creating art for a client.  This was a fun opportunity, as Jennifer encouraged me to keep going with more and more projects as I or anyone else thought of new ideas. It was a side of the internship that I did not expect upon entering, but it was one of the most valuable experiences of my summer. 

Finally, working at the headquarters in New Haven was a wonderful experience in and of itself.  It was enjoyable working surrounded by others with the same interests and being able to bounce ideas back and forth and learn from each other.  Furthermore, learning about the inner workings and fundamental ideas behind Unite For Sight has given me valuable insight and inspiration for a future of contributing to social change. I strongly recommend this internship for people with a passion for public health and contributing to changes around the world.  While learning about Unite For Sight’s work, while researching areas in need, and while exploring the power of an educational or promotional image, I have been even more inspired to continue to support Unite For Sight and work for health and social change further down the road.