Student lands D.C. internship to help Latino families gain health access


Centeno, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s in liberal studies and a minor in psychology, discovered her passion for epidemiology while taking an introduction to public health course.

Centeno, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s in liberal studies and a minor in psychology, discovered her passion for epidemiology while taking an introduction to public health course.

What ultimately led Jenniffer Centeno ‘14 to pursue a master’s degree in public health from the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work was a simple question.

“What drew me into public health was that question of ‘why?’” Centeno says. “Why is it this disease happening in this place? What is causing this disease to occur and spread? I’ve always had interest in knowing why things happen.”

Centeno, who graduated in 2014 with a bachelor’s in liberal studies and a minor in psychology, discovered her passion while taking an introduction to public health course during her last semester as an undergraduate student.

After graduation, it was immediately clear that her next step was to study public health, and she began her pursuit of a master’s degree in public health with a specialization in epidemiology, which involves the study and analysis of the patterns, causes and effects of health and disease conditions. In Fall 2015, Centeno joined the program and decided to focus her studies non-communicable diseases like cardiovascular disease and cancer.

This summer, she will have a chance to learn more about public health disparities and gain hands-on experience attending a presentation at FIU hosted by The Washington Center, which connects students to internship opportunities around the D.C. area in a wide variety of fields – including medicine, business and law.

Centeno will be heading to D.C. in late May for an internship with Nueva Vida, an organization whose mission is to improve health outcomes and access to health services for underserved Latino families in the Mid-Atlantic region that are suffering from illness.

While in D.C., she’ll have a chance to get involved with the organization’s outreach programs and initiatives, and she’ll connect with professionals in her field as well as others striving to one day have a career in public health.

“I’m really excited for the chance live away from Miami for the first time, gain experience in my field and learn how to apply what I’m learning in the classroom,” Centeno says. “In public health, you can’t work alone – everything is collaboration and working on a team. With an internship, you get to work and get out there.”

The total cost of the Washington Center program, which has benefitted hundreds of FIU students since 2012, is roughly $11,000. But thanks to an agreement between the center and the State of Florida, the Florida Legislature provides $7,000 in scholarship funds for each student participating in the program.

The Washington Center also gives students an additional grant of $1,500 if the student stays in their housing. Centeno received the $8,500 in scholarships and will have to pay around $2,500 out of pocket.

Centeno will be receiving credit toward her degree as part of the internship and will be working with her advisor at FIU Stempel College, assistant professor Gladys Ibañez, on a paper based on her internship experience, which ends the first week of August.

“She is a very motivated student who took the initiative to get this internship and is proactive in her learning,” Ibañez says. “These internships are a good marriage between community work and research, and this experience will help her apply what she’s learning to issues that the community is facing.”