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Andrew Kleist, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

This content was created by an EHS intern to describe intern experiences. It has not been revised or edited to conform to agency standards. The findings and conclusions are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily represent the views of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

SUPEH Intern, Summer 2013

This summer I was fortunate to be chosen as an intern in the Summer Undergraduate Program in Environmental Health (SUPEH) at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, Georgia. As an environmental health student at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, the city I grew up in, I was ecstatic for the opportunity to live in a big metropolitan city for the summer. The chance to gain experience in the environmental health field while learning about how the government works has truly been a once in a lifetime opportunity as an undergraduate student.

As a member of the SUPEH program I engaged in unique field experiences that changed my outlook on the depth and scope of an environmental health professional’s role in public health practice. These activities included shadowing a county health inspector, conducting health and safety inspections at restaurants and pools, participating in a tour of a poultry processing plant, examining the responsibilities of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in ensuring food safety, and analyzing Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport quarantine station to understand the steps necessary to preventing the introduction of infectious diseases into the United States.

In addition to these educational field experiences, I was also provided with incredible opportunities to apply what I have learned in the academic setting to real-world events occurring internationally. My supervisors included me in important discussions regarding drought and disease outbreaks affecting countries around the world. I learned from these discussions and contributed in ways I could have never anticipated before my involvement in SUPEH.

My individual project for the summer involved a project with U.S. Public Health Service Captain Mark Miller to develop a response protocol addressing sanitation and environmental issues that occur when high-rise buildings lose their utilities. This project evaluates problems that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, but also includes information compiled from the 2003 northeast power outages, among other events. This project will help develop a better understanding of what truly went wrong in these buildings so that similar situations in the future can be handled more effectively.

The structure of SUPEH and the introductions I had to public health professionals each day greatly enabled me to learn about my professional and personal interests throughout the experience. As a member of the 2013 SUPEH class, I felt lucky each day to collaborate with some of the brightest minds in the environmental health field. Through this incredible opportunity I engaged in projects I know will truly make a difference in protecting peoples’ health. I developed relationships with CDC colleagues, many of whom I will reconnect with as I move into my professional career. Receiving invaluable advice has provided me with direction about moving to the next chapter of my life and I have grown both professional and personally throughout this life-changing experience.

After the internship I will go back to complete my undergraduate degree. I will be graduating in December 2013. From that point I plan to gain some experience working for a few years before returning to school to pursue my masters at some point in the future.