Partners in Arizona Help Prepare Future Workforce Through Model Internship Program


An Academic Health Department partnership’s successful internship program prepares students for a career in public health while benefitting their community.

An illustration of a road with years written on the road

July 13, 2021

For any partnership to be successful, especially in public health, the partners have to hold a common vision. The Pima County Health Department (PCHD) in Arizona and the University of Arizona’s Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health (MEZCOPH) share a vision and much more through their strong academic health department (AHD)external icon partnership.

AHD partnerships are mutually beneficial partnerships between state and local health departments and academic institutions, such as schools of public health. By the time PCHD and MEZCOPH formalized their AHD partnership in 2019 with a memorandum of understanding, they had already put a joint venture into action: a robust internship program.

During their internships, students get real-world experience working for a health department, helping many of them fulfill their degree requirements. The interns play an active role in improving health outcomes in their communities and start to pave their career paths in public health.

MEZCOPH’s Office of the Associate Dean of Community Engagement and Outreach recognized the success of internship program housed at PCHD and launched its own AHD internship program in the fall of 2018. MEZCOPH’s cross-disciplinary internship program uses the wide array of student skills to benefit AHD collaborations.

In early 2020, the pandemic hit, bringing unique and complex challenges that put many public health programs to the test, but this AHD partnership has navigated the pandemic well. The partners strategized how best to use the students’ skills for pandemic response activities in a virtual setting. MEZCOPH student interns and nursing school students were soon pulled in for contact tracing, and those with graphics expertise worked on projects such as developing infographics and communication templates for Pima County K–12 schools to help minimize the risk of transmission in schools. Interns also helped translate communications materials into Spanish.

Not only has the internship program benefitted the AHD partnership and the surrounding community—and prepared the interns for whatever lies ahead in their public health careers—it also proved the partnership to be a well-working model that other health departments can follow.

To learn more about the MEZCOPH’s and PCHD’s partnership, and to view the interns’ graphic projects, visit the Council on Linkages Between Academia and Public Health Practice’s AHD Webinar Seriespdf iconexternal icon.

To learn more about developing, maintaining, and expanding an AHD partnership, explore the AHD Learning Communityexternal icon.

For more information, contact Julia Flannery, Pima County Health Department, and Emily Waldron, Mel & Enid Zuckerman College of Public Health.

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Disclaimer: Field Notes is designed to spotlight success and innovation in state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) health agencies. It is part of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC’s) effort to highlight what is happening on the front lines of public health. The information in Field Notes is provided by STLT agencies external to CDC. Provision of this information is for informational purposes and does not necessarily constitute an endorsement, recommendation, and/or represent the views of CDC.

Page last reviewed: February 24, 2022