My internship viral mapping Zika

30726450050_17e147512f_kName: Lillie Garvin

Major: Psychology/Pre-Med track

Hometown: Miami, Florida

Where did you intern? Alliance for Global Justice (AFGJ), an organization that works with communities and local grass root organizations around the globe to help with ecological and economic justice – all while promoting solidarity. Their projects are focused on public health, public education and health care. I did viral epidemic research of the Caribbean and South America as well as equality in health care research in the United States.

How did you get your internship? I am an FIU Global Medallion student. The program offers activities and engagement opportunities with global partners that promote global community and awareness. There are community service projects, educational lectures and internships like mine that we are able to be a part of. Upon completion of the program students are awarded a medal for their hard work. Eric Feldman is the coordinator that has guided me throughout the program. He works with each student and listens to their interests and helps to locate activities and projects that align with our interests best. He came across this internship and knowing my interests he brought it to my attention. The Office of Global Learning Initiatives is one of the offices I’ve worked closely with during my time at FIU and I encourage anyone with an interest in global work to check the program out; it really has positively impacted my life.

What projects did you work on? My first project and one of my favorites was the Zika Viral Mapping. Viral mapping is reviewing data and cases that have popped up in an area and tracking it as it moves. Additionally with the tracking, comes analyzing what it is about those areas that make it ideal conditions for a virus ( temperature, location, hygiene, etc). I used a number of programs and data provided to me that allowed me to identify a pattern and compare to previous diseases in the area. My work on Zika was turned into an article and published on the organization’s site; it was also sent out to various delegations in Central and South America for public education and prevention. At the time, Zika was very new and prevention wasn’t known in all areas, yet. It was an amazing opportunity to be on the forefront of this epidemic helping through public education.

How did your internship connect back to your coursework? While doing my research, I was able to interact with people from various cultures, from all over. I had taken a course on intercultural communication that I really put into practice. It taught me how to be culturally sensitive and how to interact with those who do not come from the same place as I. This course was something that I continually found myself remembering. Whether it was how to address someone or just bearing in mind that everyone has a different environment that they live in. It helped me to complete my project and to do it in a successful way. I also found what I had learned in biopsychology to be especially helpful. With Zika, there are some neurological conditions that could occur in specific cases. Having that foundation of how the brain works and how disease can affect it was key to helping me understand what I was dealing with as I researched.

What was the coolest thing about your internship? Being able to be research Zika. Additionally speaking to health professionals across the Caribbean and South America was something that helped my research and my personal academic growth. One that stood out to me was discussing the conditions in Nicaragua as well as Brazil and seeing how vastly different they were. The cases of Microcephaly while found in both countries, had a higher report rate in Brazil than in Nicaragua. Living conditions also varied and public health availability was a large factor.

What did you like most about your experience? The team I worked with was an amazing group who welcomed me and encouraged my academic growth as well as gave me projects that were engaging and relevant to our world right now.

What did you learn about yourself? I have a new love for public health. I’ve always wanted to go the medical route and now I also want to incorporate public health education. It showed me that I can get very passionate about a topic and I don’t give up until I find an answer.

How did the position increase your professional confidence? After each completed project, I felt more and more equipped for the next one and it gave me confidence to tackle topics that I may not have known a lot about at first knowing that I would work through and learn and produce a good project.

How did you expand your professional network? I had conference calls and networked with health officials from around the Caribbean as well as other professionals from the United States. I learned something valuable from each person I encountered during my internship.

How did it help you prove yourself in the “real-world?” I had my Zika research published and I am in the process of finalizing my last piece on health care equality in America.

What advice do you have for those beginning the internship process? Apply to internships that truly reflect your interest. My internship was perfect fit for my personality and what I like to do. Internships require a good amount of time and if you don’t pick something you really like, you’ll end up dreading your work instead of being excited. Also, be patient. Sometimes it takes a while to be selected and find out, but good things come to those who wait. It did to me!