MCH STUDENT FIELD EXPERIENCES 2018

Author: Gabrielle Lodge, MPH(c) Community Health Sciences, Maternal and Child Health

This summer, MCH Trainees participated in field experiences both locally in Chicago and across the US. We were able to connect with four Center of Excellence (CoE) in Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Masters students and asked them to share their experiences and advice they would give to prospective and incoming MPH students.  Read their stories below.

Isabella (Izzy) Litwack

Izzy’s field experience was with an organization based in Chicago, EverThrive Illinois, what she considers one of the “policy experts around town”. Izzy worked on two projects simultaneously. The first project was on contraceptive justice, a new initiative that kicked off April 2018. EverThrive IL started a statewide coalition that included stakeholders, policy makers, lawyers, and medical providers. This coalition aimed to increase contraceptive access to people in Illinois. Izzy helped lay the basic foundation of this project. She researched current policies, regulations, and bills to understand what exists in Illinois to promote or restrict contraceptive access. She also engaged in a policy cross-walk where she compared contraceptive access in Illinois with 11 other states.

Izzy’s second project was related to Medicaid Buy-In. This November, the gubernatorial election is taking place in Illinois, and the democratic nominee is J.B. Pritzker. Pritzker has announced his healthcare platform to include a Medicaid Buy-In component. Pritzker has proposed a plan to allow any Illinoisan to buy into Medicaid, which traditionally has only provided medical coverage to low-income populations. This policy could be of particular importance to EverThrive IL because it could potentially provide insurance coverage to children who have not qualified in the past. To help EverThrive IL strategize, Izzy dedicated time to researching all relevant information on Medicaid Buy-In. This included looking at proposed legislation across different states and within Illinois related to Medicaid Buy-In.

Izzy has always had an interest in policy work and was grateful for the opportunity to get an inside look of a policy and advocacy organization. It allowed her to dig into healthcare and understand how policymakers have a huge role in impacting access to care. Moreover, her field experience with EverThrive IL allowed her master the language of policy and insurance coverage. Izzy says that often there are terms thrown around that we do not fully understand. This experience allowed her to have a better understanding of the terms often use in healthcare policy, Medicaid, health insurance, and the overall healthcare market.

Izzy’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“The field experience isn’t just about getting the job done. Take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to you. Use your field experience to network. Use this opportunity to preform informational interviews with the people you are working with. Asking people what they do for their jobs is valuable. Treat the field experience as more than a requirement for school.”

Channon M. L. Campbell, B.S., MSN

Channon was an intern for the Center for Community Health at Northwestern’s Institute of Public Health and Medicine. She interned specifically for the Mothers and Babies program, a postpartum depression (PPD) prevention intervention program. This program promotes healthy mood management by teaching participants how to effectively respond to their stress. It is delivered as a group or as a one-on-one intervention.

Channon worked primarily with low-income women of color. She conducted a series of surveys, gathering depression scores of mothers which are tracked at 12, 18, and 24 months. She also conducted surveys on bonding, and how mothers interact with their child. Some survey tools focused on child development such as the Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ), while others related to mental health, such as the Beck’s Depression Inventory (BDI). Surveys were conducted at home-visits, but if unable to, Channon would provide outreach through phone calls. Channon would manage the data from home visits and client interactions to track changes and progress of both child development and mother’s mental health.

For her Capstone, Channon will be work with Mothers and Babies to look at the long-term effects of client’s participation this program. She will look to understand if the program was impactful for the mothers to access preventative care to their infants (well-child checks, and immunizations). This is also allowing her to gain experience with research protocols and methods, such as designing a research question, data compiling, data management and working with the Institutional Review Board (IRB).

Channon’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“For the field experience, consider breaking up the credit hours over two semesters. I found it overwhelming to have the 5-hour credit commitment in one summer and in the end, found it more beneficial and feasible to spread out the field experience over two semesters. I had competing priorities with other classes and work, so reducing my credit hours for the field experience was the best move for me. Map out your internship and follow it to a ‘T’ so you can get it all done. Don’t pick an internship because it is paid. Find an experience that aligns with what you want to do and find something that you will enjoy going to each day.”

Lauren Schwerzler, RDN, LDN

Lauren was selected as the Title V MCH intern for the Minnesota Department of Health in St. Paul. This is a national internship program out of the National MCH Workforce Development Center. Lauren was paired with an undergraduate student who is also an MCH Trainee from the MCH Pipeline Program, at the University of Maryland. Every state has a Title V agency that is charged with “improving the health and well-being of women (particularly mothers) and children” (Maternal and Child Health Bureau). Lauren helped the Minnesota Title V agency prepare for their need’s assessment that will be conducted in 2020. She curated materials and data briefs to facilitate the process to engage with stakeholders. She produced four data briefs for Minnesota’s Title V current priorities: breastfeeding, pregnancy intention, transition, and medical homes. Lauren also learned about health inequities that impact breastfeeding uptake, specifically racial disparities and regional differences in Minnesota.

Lauren pulled main themes out of a statewide survey that asked Minnesota stakeholders the most critical needs for women, children, and families. This survey can be filled out by anyone, and was distributed to community health workers, public health professionals, firefighters, police officers, and people who speak Spanish and Hmong. They received over 3,000 responses. Lauren conducted an analysis and found that the main themes included: housing, childcare, and education.  

Lauren additionally worked on a project related to the Title V Needs Assessment process. She developed a key informant interview guide for the Title V agency to utilize as they prepare for the needs assessment.  She also analyzed the Minnesota student survey on parental incarceration. Lauren says that the most exciting part was conducting key informant interviews with folks from Volunteers of America to understand the needs of currently or previously incarcerated women and their children.

Lauren’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“Once you have a field experience, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Preceptors tend to be more willing to go outside the schedule of projects you laid out. My preceptor showed me to link data, which wasn’t listed in the projects we originally talked about. Speaking up within the organization is important, at times people within the organization would respond “I didn’t think about that”. Don’t think of yourself as “just the intern”, think of yourself as a “new employee”. This is a fundamental period. It allows you to see what you like and don’t like, and you should take it seriously. It is great for networking and I recommend doing it in a geographical place you are interested in working when you graduate.”

Rachel Mason

Rachel’s field experience was with the Illinois Department of Public Health. Her preceptor was Amanda Bennett, PhD, a UIC alum and the current CDC MCH Epidemiologist assignee for the state of Illinois. Her project was focused on School Based Health Centers (SBHC).  There are 67 SBHC in Illinois, and half of them are in Chicago.  Rachel’s project built off of the Harvard-CDC Evaluation project and she employed program evaluation principles to assess barriers to and facilitators of high-quality SBHC adolescent health services. She also created a quantitative annual assessment to increase the knowledge about service capacity and standards of care within SBHCs across Illinois. This survey will be sent early fall to assess the SBHC on an aggregate level. Since there are no current data, these data will be used understand differences between SBHCs and identify areas of improvement.

This project also led Rachel to reaching out to SBHCs directly. Rachel conducted qualitative interviews at the SBHC with staff, and used the frameworks developed by the Harvard students to get specific themes of the staff’s needs. Rachel was excited to be able to be onsite at the SBHCs to conduct her interviews and found that seeing the physicality of the centers was very helpful. She was able to speak to others outside of the interviews and asked them about their experiences with SBHCs. She synthesized her findings in a final report and presented them to IDPH leadership. Rachel was really happy to have exposure to both quantitative and qualitative work.

Rachel’s advice to prospective, and incoming MPH students:

“Critically think about what you want out of the field experience. Make a list of important things that you want to get out of the internship. Think about the subject matter of your project and how long you anticipate doing this type of project. Make sure you “mesh” with your preceptor. You’ll want to feel comfortable to ask your preceptor questions.”