Roger Williams is a Houston-based Master of Public Health Epidemiology student. During the summer of 2020, he conducted two separate remote practicums: one project with Ethne Health Community Clinic under Dr. Robert Contino and the second with Harvard Medical School under Dr. Molly Franke. Roger worked remotely with the Clarkston, Georgia based Ethne Health Community Clinic addressing refugee and immigrant health and worked with experts from Harvard Medical School on tuberculosis prevalence in Peru.
Roger originally planned an on-site practicum, but, like many graduate colleagues last year, COVID disrupted those plans. He saw an online presentation from Ethne Health regarding their local COVID-19 response and he noted the presenter’s statement that continuing to supply primary care while conducting COVID-19 testing was a significant challenge for the organization. Roger took initiative and reached out to the presenter to ask how he might be of service to assist with their operational challenges, and Ethne Health welcomed his inquiry. Roger volunteered his time to offer his public health perspective and designed a remote practicum around this volunteer opportunity with his Practicum team.
While volunteering with Ethne Health remotely, Roger saw an online advertisement for a postdoctoral fellowship position that piqued his interest. He emailed with a brief description of his availability and willingness to contribute in any way needed. After meeting briefly with Dr. Franke, Roger contributed to Harvard Medical School’s work on Tuberculosis research that served as a second practicum experience.
Roger says that he thoroughly enjoyed being able to contribute to COVID-19 research on both local and global levels. Through both projects, he received rewarding mentorship and was able to discuss how to apply concepts from public health courses directly to the projects. For his final products, he conducted a qualitative analysis examining barriers to COVID testing enrollment among the migrant and refugee population in Clarkson, Georgia. The Harvard Medical School final product included a descriptive epidemiology report discussing the seroprevalence of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies among high-risk groups of essential workers in Lima, Peru. This report was submitted and accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases.
Roger recommends that students begin communicating with their faculty mentors and community preceptors as early as possible. He believes that the opportunity to seek out and find your practicum is not only practice in intentionality and professional initiative, but also an opportunity to network and connect with potential employers. Reaching out, discussing research interests and professional goals with your faculty mentor, community preceptors, and professors can help you learn to communicate your abilities and discuss your interests in public health. It is important to embrace the opportunity to explore how your interests can make a difference in public health. Watch the student newsletter for UTHealth events, and attend webinars about on-going research to stay up to date on what others are doing in your areas of interest. Do not be afraid to reach out to webinar presenters to see how you can contribute. The practicum experience is a valuable opportunity to gain exposure and apply skills outside the classroom.