Hope you are enjoying your break!
The series of Student Experiences are a new addition to the MPHSA website. The aim is to hear the stories of students who have done public health related internships or volunteering.
We want to know how did they get the position, what did they do, what did they learn, and what advices they might have for others considering to do a similar thing.
The first interview is with Chris (Red) Bates, our own ex-president. You can find Chris’s LinkedIn profile here and see what has he been up to.
Also, we would love to hear from you. Do you have a public health related volunteering/ internship experience and willing to share your story with us? Do you have any questions you want to see answered in the future interviews? Write to us. Let us know.
With no further ado, let us move on to our first interview. Enjoy!
Chris ‘Red’ Bates
What was your background before MPH?
Clinical Radiation Therapist – 5 years, Melbourne
Where are you at your MPH?
Just finished Research project!
Were you Full time/ Part time student?
Were you enrolled as local or international student?
Where did you do your internship?
National Centre for Disease Control, Delhi
How long have you were there?
What are some the things you do/ did in your role?
I was given three tasks: to create a ‘practical’ exercise for students of their Master of Field Epidemiology course about an real infectious disease outbreak and response; I was involved in researching epidemiological characteristics of acute encephalopathy to advise the NCDC how to investigate a seasonal, unexplained outbreak in Bihar; and give an impromptu presentation about analytical and descriptive epidemiology.
Tell us the story of how you applied for your position.
Well, application is not really the term (again). This time I followed the rule of persistence. I took every email address from the different (relevant) NCDC divisions on their website and sent emails of interest to all of them. They were all tailored to the personal recipients and divisions’ functions, but still a lot of emailing (I knew many would bounce or not respond). I repeated this every few weeks, and even sent some hard-copy letters to the director. When one person replied, I emailed even more! Sent more letters, showing that I was persistent and dedicated. Eventually, after several months, they replied and said I would be able to join them at the start of 2013!
What skills have you picked up?
This has really consolidated my knowledge of infectious disease epidemiology. I did this subject and I highly recommend it, but to put this into practice is such a valuable activity. Especially in both an acute outbreak situation as food poisoning, as well as a long term epidemic such as encephalopathy showed me so many different aspects to epidemiology. Another valuable experience was simply working in a different culture, which is important if you are focusing on global health. Integrating, observing and learning have been great lessons to learn; as well as how to live in a foreign city.
What benefits have there been?
I made some friends at the NCDC in a social sense and a professional sense. The MFE students were very nice and took me out to the Indian republic day parade, helped orient me to the NCDC. My supervisor was very patient and I have kept in contact with her as we finalised the practicum and follow the continued epidemic in Bihar. Another mentor has recently returned to me to collaborate in writing an article for the WHO using the information I found. So the work from a 1 month internship is still going!
What tip would you give other people looking for internships?
Just because you are unfamiliar with a place, an organisation, or people, don’t let that intimidate you to getting what you want. Try to contact them, express interest and consider what you have to offer (even if it is just a new perspective). In this case I was quite clear that I did not require remuneration of any sort, and did not wish to be registered or accredited by them in any way – just to be there.
Also talk to people about these companies and your aspirations – someone might know someone, or have some advice.
Has your internship helped in other aspects of your work/life?
It has been good to be able to say that I have had this experience. I didn’t have experience working overseas or in different cultures before and now I can say that I have. At the very least, it has proved to myself that it is possible to approach an institution without any background knowledge, teach yourself that knowledge and then contact them and start a relationship. I hope that other University of Melbourne students will have the opportunity to go there too.
Thank you so much for your time!