The Future of Public Health Looks Bright


Since the development of the CDC Foundation Summer internship program, undergraduate and graduate students of diverse disciplines have been provided the opportunity to immerse themselves in relevant public health work.

This year, several students, including me, from across varied academic backgrounds were part of the 2022 CDC Foundation internship cohort. The team of students consisted of those studying economics, information technology, public health, accounting, chemistry and more. Not only have we improved our skill sets, but we have provided to the knowledge base at the CDC Foundation by integrating concepts learned at our respective institutions. Importantly, each intern has contributed to the current and future programming of the foundation in various areas, such as global health, infectious diseases and communications.

Like me, interns across the Foundation have shared the value of the internship to their professional development. Pearlanna Zapotocky, a 2023 Master of Public Health candidate at New York University, recalls the “invaluable professional guidance and insight” that her mentor provided her throughout the program.

Though virtual, this year’s intern program successfully fostered meaningful relationships between interns and Foundation staff. Throughout the summer we were able to work on current and future programming for the Foundation. Some of those projects included human-centered design research, Partnering for Vaccine Equity (P4VE), HIV self-testing, Understanding and Preventing Drowning in Sub-Saharan Africa, and sickle cell data collection, to name a few. These programs required tasks including creating promotional material, compiling literature for research, assisting with planning, social media content drafting and more. It was through these projects we were able to see the breadth and depth of public health work, according to Lee Augenblick, 2023 MPH candidate, at the University of South Carolina. Projects also provided an opportunity for us to gain a newfound love and appreciation of the work in areas of public health that we never imagined. For instance, 2022 Emory University MPH recipient Anisha Sheth says she grew to love the endless possibilities that global tobacco work provided.

Some interns were instrumental in the business and technology endeavors of the Foundation and showed just how multidisciplinary public health truly is. The Foundation provided students such as David Waltman, a Cybersecurity major from Grand Canyon University, the opportunity to explore new software and technologies that are vital to his field of work. The Foundation also equipped many other interns with newfound skills.

It is safe to say all of us are walking away with a new perspective of what public health can be. I can attest to the valuable experience the CDC Foundation provided me this summer. Being part of the Communications Department allowed me to get a firsthand glimpse of the challenges, processes and joys of health communication. From compiling literature related to climate change and health equity, to formulating best-practices strategies for various communications plans, this internship provided much insight on some of the hurdles we must overcome in providing effective messaging about public health.

This summer I was able to connect with several CDC Foundation team members to hear about their pathways to public health and their goals for the future. It was in these conversations I was exposed to new ideas that sparked new passions within myself. This summer will be one to remember for all the 2022 cohort. Through our projects, research and collaborations with team members and community partners from various backgrounds we learned that in public health, together our impact is truly greater. Because of this, the future of public health looks brighter!

Naomi Whitaker
Naomi Whitaker was a summer 2022 intern for the communications department.