I completed my practicum with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Washington, D.C.
What skills did you gain during your practicum?
My practicum experience with the CDC provided me with a solid background on the national conversation around syringe exchange programs in addition to current prevention and mitigation efforts around HIV/viral hepatitis. During my time at the CDC, I developed a report of findings on evidence-based best practices for implementation of syringe exchange programs to mitigate prescription drug abuse and HIV/viral hepatitis transmission. The report required a literature review, statistical analysis, assessment of best practices and the development of innovative and collaborative solutions.
Were you able to apply the skills you gained during your practicum to your current job?
Absolutely! In my current role as a health care legislative assistant, I work on a diverse portfolio that includes viral hepatitis and liver health. In this position, I have a responsibility to become an expert on my clients and the populations that they represent. My experience with the CDC provided a better understanding of the status of HIV/viral hepatitis in the U.S., what systems of care or public health programs are in place to mitigate these infectious diseases and how to navigate the federal regulatory environment to ensure that the most vulnerable populations have equal access to quality care and treatment. Following my CDC experience, I am able to be a better advocate on behalf of these populations, develop more innovative legislative solutions and engage federal agencies, such as the CDC, more proactively.
What was your favorite aspect of your practicum experience?
I was immediately exposed to the impressive cadre of diverse individuals who work in the CDC’s Washington office. Each of the staff have a portfolio of different centers within the CDC with whom they communicate to ensure the advancement of public health activities through a robust policy strategy that involves members of Congress, partner organizations, community stakeholder groups and other agencies. Being able to engage with the staff was a highlight of my experience as it contributed to my continued development in public health.
I wish my practicum experience could have been longer! I conducted my practicum during a crucial time for the CDC’s Division of Viral Hepatitis, specifically as it relates to what I wrote my report on. In the months to follow, the agency and this division have been very active in the space of prescription drug abuse, HIV/viral hepatitis prevention and syringe exchange programs.
What was your experience like working with your preceptor?
As I mentioned, the CDC’s Washington office is made up of incredibly talented and knowledgeable staff with much experience. While I had the opportunity to work with a lot of the staff on various projects, I chose my preceptor specifically because she had a wealth of experience to mentor me in my exploration of the intersection of prescription drug abuse and HIV/viral hepatitis. My preceptor works with the CDC’s Division of Injury Prevention; therefore, she spends some of her time on harm reduction solutions, such as syringe exchange programs.
Would you like to pursue a career with an organization similar to your practicum site?
For a number of years it has been my dream to work for the CDC or an organization with a similar public health mission. Being able to conduct my practicum experience with the CDC was both enriching and fulfilling. CDC, World Health Organization, USAID or even the National Institutes of Health would fit well with my career goals because these organizations could provide me with the opportunity to further hone my expertise on HIV/viral hepatitis and are leading the efforts to improve the public’s health and knowledge of these issues.