Penn Public Health

The Blog of the Center for Public Health Initiatives


Public Health Pipeline Plus!
CPHI and The Netter Center Merge to Make a New Public Health Pipeline Program at Penn.

CPHI partnered with the Netter Center to host 16 Philadelphia high school students for a public health internship this summer from July 5th - August 11th. This past week, interns presented their final presentations on topics such as healthy eating, lead poisoning, and bicycle safety. This pilot year took a step toward the goal of building a Public Health Pipeline to parallel the existing Educational Pipeline Programs operated by the Perelman School of Medicine in partnership with the Netter Center. CPHI was fortunate to build off of a network of CPHI Fellows and MPH Faculty to help with programming.

“It was a pleasure working with high school students and to engage them in how to think of about injury and violence,” said Therese Richmond, Andrea B. Laporte Professor of Nursing and Associate Dean for Research & Innovation for School of Nursing. “Their age group is at such high risk for injury - having an opportunity to help them see how risks can be identified and mitigated and how science can be used to keep communities safe is important.”   

Master of Public Health (MPH) student Elaine Tran, in her second year of the MPH program, took the lead on designing and implementing the program along with two other MPH students and Netter Center staff. On a typical week, students were exposed to one of four primary public health topic areas: environmental health, infectious disease, chronic disease, and injury prevention. Lessons were both classroom and field-based.   For example, when learning about chronic disease, interns visited corner stores to audit the amount of tobacco and sugary drink advertising. In addition, during their week with the Center for Excellence in Environmental Toxicology (CEET), interns tested soil and analyzed for lead contamination. Other activities included visiting the CDC Quarantine Station, helping beautify a vacant lot, and learning about bicycle safety while taking a test ride with the city’s Indego bikeshare program with the Bicycle Coalition.

CPHI had the pleasure of talking with Nicholas Nguyen and Amaya Toby, both rising juniors at Mastery Charter Schools, Thomas and Shoemaker Campuses, respectively. Here’s what they said:

CPHI: What got you interested in the program?

Amaya: I was introduced through my internship here at Penn. I always wanted to be a pediatrician but didn’t feel that confident in myself to help kids, so I needed to go to more programs to confirm that I can do it. So far I think I can.

CPHI: What helped build your confidence?

Amaya: Meeting a couple of pediatricians themselves - they made it seem like a fun job and helped me keep an open mind about how to get into the field of work. I was introduced to epidemiology and didn’t even know that existed. Now I know not only can I help children, but I can prevent them from getting hurt. [Through this] I found a little place of where I want to be.

CPHI:  What was the most meaningful part of the program?

Nicholas: Putting together the career panel; it was really hectic to put together but fun to see it all work out. It was also really interesting tracking lead in the soil and using maps to see how everything is spread out – I like that kind of data.

Amaya: I really liked the lesson on chronic disease – specifically the smoking part when they showed us the different ways how they [tobacco industry] went around and advertised smoking - targeting our neighborhoods. I was upset about it – how they [tobacco industry] used black power in their ads. And it helped when he [Ryan Coffman, Tobacco and Policy Control Manager, City of Philadelphia] sat down with us and talked about ways to get through to people who smoke. That actually made me talk to my uncle about it.

CPHI: Did the program meet your expectations?

Nicholas: To be completely honest, I had no idea what I was walking into. Thought I was going to be in the hospital, but we never stepped into the hospital!

Amaya: I felt like we’d learn the basics of the human health - the body and everything – but really was like the opposite. It was different. It was mostly like ways to get sick, and know what you can do to make it stop.    

CPHI: Is there anything you would change?

Nicholas: I really enjoyed the program. But if I had to change something – more hands-on experience.

CPHI: What would be your advice to a young person interested in joining the program next year? 

Amaya: Prepare to socialize a lot. When I stepped in I thought it was just going to be me and my friend – but it was more like making new friends and trying to understand the staff and people that you meet.

Interns Preparing to Cook Healthy Pizza
Pipeline Plus Interns Greening a Vacant Lot with PHS
Pipeline Plus interns enjoying demonstration with Customs and Border Protection Agriculture canine.
Stream Sampling with CEET