Working While Studying Gives PH Students Awesome Experience
Teaching middle- and high-school students about sexually transmitted infections and contraception. Conducting West Nile virus surveillance activities. Kent State undergraduate and master’s students are getting exceptional real-world experience through summer and part-time school-year employment in jobs they describe as decidedly affirming their public health career choice.
Senior Brittani Gintz is on the fast track to a career in reproductive health. She completed two years of college taking post-secondary courses during high school at Sandy Valley in Stark County, and she’s finishing her public health bachelor’s degree in five semesters. A 2011 internship with Planned Parenthood in Akron led to subsequent volunteering there, which in turn led to Gintz being offered a part-time sex education program position at the Bedford Heights office. She’s taught students in grades 6-12, individuals in jails and halfway houses and participants in the Upward Bound program. “I’m very fortunate to have my dream job before I even graduate,” Gintz says. “I love what I do, to do it full time would be fantastic, and I’m looking at Planned Parenthood positions in various states right now,” she says. Gintz will graduate this semester from the health education and promotion program, with a minor in human sexuality.
Master’s student Olivia Hartman has worked two summers for Summit County Public Health in mosquito control. “The first year, there were two of us. We were excited and the experience was really relevant, so the second year, 10 of the 14 kids hired were from Kent State College of Public Health,” Hartman explains. Her 2012 duties included data management, as well as mosquito trapping, because of her familiarity. “We recorded the pesticides in a database to track where they were applied, how much was used, what was treated and community-member observations,” she explains. The rest of her day was spent setting and retrieving traps, along with maintenance liketrap repair. Hartman was featured in an August 14 article in the Akron Beacon Journal, Mosquito trappers give bite to West Nile fight.
“In class, we’ve talked about surveillance so much. My biggest learning take away from this job was the real-world application of it,” she says. “Actually doing surveillance makes you so much more aware of the challenges of implementing a program, understanding the factors involved, collecting data and monitoring what’s going on,” she explains. “It was the perfect summer job and great to network with the public health professionals there,” says Hartman, who holds an undergraduate degree in health care administration and just started her master’s program in health policy and management this fall.
Master’s student Benjamin Villarreal was also part of the surveillance team. He speaks with ease about the functions of gravid and oviposition traps, the need for speed in counting mosquitoes while they’re knocked out with carbon dioxide and the ideal environments and locations for placing traps.
Villarreal says that the summer work experience underscored the importance of sound data in program implementation. “I learned that it’s vitally important to do surveillance, to identify where you can have a useful impact for prevention. To sprayeverywhere and all the time is very expensive. You can be very effective by not spraying as much and only where needed,” he observes.
Villarreal is in the master of public health program, specializing in epidemiology, but he “really likes environmental health science,” he says. He will complete a practicum project analyzing nine years of mosquito surveillance data, working the Terry Tuttle, environmental health supervisor for Summit County Public Health. “We’ll be determining trends and linkages between temperature, rainfall and mosquitoes positive for West Nile virus,” Villarreal explains.
The Kent State Public Health undergrads also working for Summit County Public Health in mosquito controlwere Jennette Demeraski, David Dunson, Julie Hardgrove, Nathan King, Sean Kretovics, Daniel Marthey and Carl Saviers. Lindsay Meade, who started Northeast Ohio Medical University this fall, also was a member of the Kent State team.