The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Grace Sollender '15

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Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our "Notes from the Field" series. Click here to read more about the Rockefeller Center's Internships program. To read the entire series, click here.

Student Intern: Grace Sollender '15 

Internship Organization: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) - National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases (NCIRD) - Atlanta, GA 

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch? 
The CDC is a federal governmental agency charged with protecting public health and safety by controlling and preventing disease, injury, and disability. The NCIRD is specifically responsible for preventing disease, disability, and death through immunization and by control of respiratory and related diseases. 

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization? 
The wintertime period has coincided with some new communication outreach and state health department coalition work. In Atlanta, the NCIRD has been instituting some program tracking methods (e.g. setting up a dashboard to monitor progress of the many ongoing activities). The health policy initiatives I am involved in include interventions with clinicians, public health programs, and the public, as well as some system issues (for example, better use of prompts in electronic medical records and performance measure tracking). As an intern, I work with the leadership team overseeing the whole program, helping to assure that the NCIRD is able to identify progress and obstacles through the monitoring work and make corrections in NCIRD efforts. I have the opportunity to analyze data, draft brief reports/summaries, assist with the visual display of information, track communication impacts (e.g. PSAs, social media work), and attend meetings with public health and clinician groups. I have contact with a mix of public health professionals, including physicians, epidemiologists, communication experts, social scientists, and data managers. 

The main project that I have been involved in relates to assisting in multiple efforts the NCIRD is making to improve uptake of Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) vaccine among teenagers in the United States. This vaccine is recommended for 11 and 12 year olds, but nationally only about 50% of teen-aged girls have been vaccinated with one dose, and only about one-third with the full three-dose series. Vaccination of boys is newer and lags even further behind. It is urgent that healthcare policy officials work to increase HPV vaccine uptake now to reduce cancer rates in the future. 

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
I was very excited to start a job at such an influential and prestigious public health organization. What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
One of my favorite parts of this internship has been the opportunity to learn from so many of the field's influential leaders since I am located at the CDC headquarters. I have enjoyed attending various events, including morning seminars and vaccine dinner club meetings in which experts speak about their public health research in the field. It was also cool to hear about my supervisor's experience meeting actress Kate Winslet, who supposedly modeled her character in the movie Contagion after my supervisor and came to the CDC to interview her prior to filming. It's a special place to be, and it's certainly a perk that the weather here in Atlanta is really warm in comparison to Hanover. 

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
I hope to better understand the challenges associated with the implementation of health policy in the United States and explore how health policy fits in with my career goals. 

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
The city of Atlanta completely shuts down with any snow or ice.

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