Tag Archives: JRCOSTEP

Kate T.: About My Mosquito Surveillance Project

About My Mosquito Surveillance Project

By Kate T.

My major internship tasks were weekly mosquito surveillance and the development of a mosquito visualization template to communicate the risk of (and recommendations for) West Nile Virus to the Pascua Yaqui Tribe Health Department. I didn’t need too many hard skills besides general background knowledge on surveillance and sampling coming into this project to make it awesome – just determination, persistence, and a little bit of creativity. Although I completed this project mostly independently, I did receive feedback and guidance from my preceptor during various stages of its development. 

In order to get a sense of the risk for West Nile Virus activity on the reservation, I first began by identifying sixteen spots throughout the reservation where I could set up mosquito traps to monitor for various species. Mosquitoes are most likely to congregate in areas near standing water, so I prioritized these locations. These included homes with birdbaths and trees near stormwater drainage areas. Although Tucson is known for dry heat over the summer, it’s also known for its monsoon season which brings humidity and amplifies mosquito activity.

Once I determined which locations I would use, my weekly routine began. This included picking up dry ice from a nearby grocery store in the afternoon (dry ice attracts mosquitoes and therefore lures them near the traps) and driving around the reservation deploying the traps at each of the predetermined locations. I would leave the traps overnight and would come extra early the following day to collect each trap. Although these steps were repetitive and at times tedious, especially in scorching Arizona heat, it made me appreciate and understand the need for consistency and perseverance in data collection. Once I collected each mosquito bag, I would place it in a cooler with dry ice to immobilize the samples so I could sort through and analyze them back in the office. Because West Nile Virus only stays viable for a couple hours after a mosquito has been killed, it’s important to analyze it as soon as possible after collection to collect accurate results.

Luckily, West Nile activity was quite low in Tucson this year, as determined by our lack of findings which were comparable to other health departments throughout the state. In the event that we did find samples containing high West Nile Virus presence, the next step would have been to notify the tribal health department and individuals living on the reservation through a radio announcement. I developed the visualization template to map out where mosquitoes were throughout the season by using PowerPoint and a birds-eye view map of the reservation. Overall, this project was a fun experience for me because it involved going out in the field and collecting data, and then finding a way to effectively communicate my findings to the general public. It was also rewarding to be able to take ownership on a project and call it my own.

Meet Our Interns: Kate T.

My Experience Applying to JRCOSTEP

By Kate T.

Kate T. driving to a site.

My internship search began fall quarter of my junior year, when I was enrolled in ENVH 480. I learned about the JRCOSTEP internship opportunity through a fellow classmate who completed her internship the previous summer with the Indian Health Service in Phoenix, AZ. After learning about her experience, I decided there was no harm in applying. She did warn me about the lengthy application cycle, so I started looking into it right away. It started with a screening phone call to even get access to the application. It was a challenge in itself trying to catch the office during business hours, considering the time difference and being in class for the majority of the day, but eventually I managed to get through. Once I did, I gained access to a portal with a slew of application materials ranging from forms I needed to get signed by a physician, directions on how to obtain fingerprints, and reference requests. Needless to say, as a student who was already juggling a rigorous course schedule, another part-time internship, and volunteer work – I was overwhelmed.

Although it sounds simple, my best advice is to take each direction one at a time and I cannot emphasize strongly enough how important it is to start early. JRCOSTEP is part of the Commissioned Corps, which is a branch of the U.S. Public Health Service and as such is a federal-level internship. The application process for federal positions is extremely lengthy and rigorous, which is something I had never previously experienced as most of my previous jobs were either found online or through connections. Applying was a learning process in itself and I emphasize starting early because you’ll run into all kinds of unexpected obstacles and questions. These questions and obstacles take time getting resolved – from finding an opening at a police station for fingerprinting, to making a doctor’s appointment, to mailing in the application itself. If you wait until the very last minute it’s going to be all the more stressful, if not impossible, to complete the application on time. Another important lesson I learned throughout the process is that sometimes job searches have to take priority over other responsibilities. Whenever I got too overwhelmed I tried to think long-term: several months from now, would I be more satisfied that I put in the time and effort to obtain a killer internship or that extra night I spent studying to change my class grade by 0.1 GPA points?

Additionally, I highly recommend using all of the resources that DEOHS makes available for students. I utilized Hayley’s office hours for revising and editing my personal statement, asked multiple people for recommendations as back-ups in case someone couldn’t submit the form on time, and spoke to several previous interns about their experience in the application process. The internship/job search doesn’t have to and shouldn’t be a solo journey, and your peers can sometimes be your most valuable resources.

Although I technically only applied to one internship, I actively searched for and kept tabs on other internship applications while I was waiting to hear back. The time frame was several months – I sent my initial application (after working on it for about a month and gathering the necessary requirements) in November and didn’t hear back until mid-late January for an interview. Applying for federal positions is slightly different and oftentimes more arduous than other positions, but I am happy I went through the experience, despite the stress and occasional confusion.

Ali E.: An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

An Informational Interview with an Environmental Health Officer

By Ali E.

During these past few weeks at my internship, I’ve met a handful of different environmental health officers (EHOs) who all have varying interests, backgrounds, and stories. I’ve learned the different ways they ended up within the Office of Environmental Health in the Indian Health Service, and where they see themselves going in the future. Of all these people, there was one in particular who had a really interesting career path and who participated in an informational interview with me.

Learning how to conduct a pool survey

I met Kate a few weeks into my internship because she’s the EHO within our district with the most experience with pools. Because my project for the summer dealt with pools, I was able to go visit her field office for a few days. I learned the ins and outs of pool surveys, including debriefing with the pool operators, checking safety equipment, testing pool chemical levels, checking equipment maintenance, checking for proper documentation and chemical use, and above all how to give recommendations on how to improve the facility. Aside from learning how to properly and thoroughly conduct a pool survey, I learned a lot about Kate’s history that led her to where she is today.

Kate got her bachelor’s degree in exercise sport science because she was an athlete and loved sports and considered becoming an OT. She signed up for a Master of Public Administration program, but after a year changed to environmental health. Like me, she kind of stumbled unknowingly into environmental health because she liked the electives it offered.

The interesting part of Kate’s educational background is that she did an online master’s program that she spread out over the course of six years, which allowed her to travel around the world and work in various jobs while completing her degree. Prior to this summer, I hadn’t met a lot of people who had done their master’s degrees online, but I learned about the many advantages, as well as disadvantages, to going the online route. Kate is currently looking at getting a graduate certificate in epidemiology because her long-term goal is to get her doctorate and to work abroad, potentially with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, doing environmental health work. I didn’t know that certificates existed before meeting Kate, and she showed me that there are a multitude of ways to go about education at the graduate level, and that there is plenty of time to do so. I personally want to take some time off before pursuing a master’s to work in different settings to find my niche. Kate showed me that it isn’t necessary to rush through your education just to get a degree, but that it’s more valuable to take time to find what you’re really passionate about.

Meet Our Interns: Ali E.

My Internship with the Indian Health Service

By Ali E.

This summer I’m completing my internship with the Office of Environmental Health and Engineering with the Indian Health Service. The Indian Health Service is an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services that supplies health care services to federally recognized tribes. I’m stationed in a field office in Parker, AZ, which is located in the western side of the state. Over the course of the summer, I’m going to assist two Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) in my office with everything that they have on their plate, as well as work on my personal project regarding pool inspections. Our field office covers a large geographical area that serves five different tribes scattered throughout western Arizona, eastern California, and southern Nevada. I also have the opportunity to travel to another field office and the district office to work with EHOs that have different specializations and work with different tribes.

I’m really excited for the work I’m going to do this summer because the Environmental Health department tackles almost everything that a standard health department would manage. Looking over my work plan for the summer, I’m going to be getting exposure to vector control, food safety, injury prevention, and institutional health. I know that I want to continue on to complete a master’s degree, but I’m unsure about what specific area of Environmental Health I want to specialize in. I’m hoping that this internship will help me determine what areas of Environmental Health I want to pursue, as well as give me a better idea of what I want in a long term career.

As with anything new, it’s hard to come in to a brand new setting not knowing what your role is going to be, how you’re going to fit into the existing dynamics, and if the knowledge you already have is going to be sufficient. But from my first week and a half I can attest that as long as you are enthusiastic, hardworking, and willing to put in effort and ask questions, that you can be successful in any new setting.