Katherine Welchlin worked with SEAHEC as a public health intern during her senior year at the University of Arizona. She undertook a number of projects supporting community efforts to improve health and provide training opportunities for future and current health professionals.
“As an intern, I felt that my role was working on any project that can help the organization or community, and help me learn.”
Katherine’s projects included creating a new directory for the Binational Health Council (COBINA) of Ambos Nogales, data entry and analysis of health impact from the Cananea Mine Spill study, and working on improving SEAHEC’s use of social media. She also provided support to SEAHEC’s Future Health Leaders Clubs Coordinator Tashina Machain, in implementing FHL Club programming.
SEAHEC interns play an important role in advancing SEAHEC’s Community Health Initiatives programs by implementing projects that directly impact the community and provide support to our partners.
The COBINA directory is a contact list of all of the members of the Binational Health Councils of the Arizona/Mexico border sister communities at Nogales, Arizona/Nogales Sonora. The directory is an essential tool for helping health care providers to communicate and plan across borders.
A case in point is the bi-national response to the 2014 Cananea Mine Spill, which released “millions of gallons of sulfuric acid leach solution,” into the local environment, according to Willcox Range News. The spill has threatened the health of people and the environment in Molino de Camou, Sonora, México, a small community located on the Rio Sonora northeast of Hermosillo. SEAHEC is working with Mexico’s Secretaria de Salud and the community to recruit and train community health workers who are helping community members address health risks associated with contamination caused by the spill. Katherine tabulated and analyzed data documenting the health effects of the spill, which enabled us to utilize the data to provide community education and plan future programming.
SEAHEC has a 6,000 square mile service area, which includes nine high school based Future Health Leaders Clubs located throughout southeast Arizona. We have one program coordinator, who travels to each club to provide planning, coordination and support to our Club facilitators. Katherine’s work with our newest club at PPEP Tec in Tucson was indispensable.
“I also represented SEAHEC at the PPEP Tec Tucson FHL club, which helped make it possible to have so many clubs throughout the service area,” Katherine wrote in an email about her experience at SEAHEC.
“Overall, I think that my role, as an intern, was to be a resource and someone to work on whatever the organization needed that semester, which helped SEAHEC take on important projects more easily.”
SEAHEC has been working to improve our presence on Social Media. Katherine provided support for keeping accounts updated and developed an implementation plan to coordinate messaging across accounts.
“I was able to spend time improving social media to promote SEAHEC programs, which is something that is still quite new, and time consuming, for health organizations.”
Katherine used these experiences to build her skills and knowledge of Pubic Health.
“I think the most important thing that I learned was confidence and an understanding that what I do makes a difference. Because I had an opportunity to work with a public health organization, I gained real world experience that gave me the confidence to secure a position in this field. Also, because of this opportunity, I got to see how my efforts make a difference. For example, entering data for the Cananea mine spill research may have seemed small, but it helped in a big way, and now SEAHEC is using the research I contributed to, to plan health education programs.”
Upon graduation, Katherine accepted a post at the Pima County Health Department, where she provides community health education.
“My official title is Health Educator; However, I will be working with the Community Health Services area in HIV (and other STI) prevention. This includes promotional efforts, such as campaigns and community outreach. The outreach is through a mobile unit which offers free STI testing for HIV, syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia, which I will be trained to conduct. This helps prevent the spread of sexually transmitted infections and promotes healthy sexual practices. In addition, I will be working with Lifepoint, which is a needle exchange program. This allows injection drug users to exchange used needles for cleans ones, and reduces the risk of transmitting or contracting blood borne diseases, such as HIV and Hepatitis.”
Katherine plans to eventually pursue a Master’s in Public health, and to work abroad as well.
“However, right now I am very excited to be working in the public health field, and giving myself a little bit of a “break” from school.” In the meantime, she has advice for high school students.
“Take advantage of opportunities to gain real-world experience! Whether it’s volunteering, working, or shadowing someone in the field, it can help you decide on a career path to pursue, learn in a hands on environment, or even just network with professionals who can one day write a letter of recommendation for you. And no matter how small it may seem, it can be beneficial if you make the most of it!
Katherine says she was inspired to apply for a SEAHEC internship because SEAHEC Executive Director Gail Emrick, gave a guest presentation in one of Katherine’s classes that she really enjoyed.
“So I reached out to her via email and showed my interest in what SEAHEC does, which connected me with the opportunity. So take advantage [of opportunities] when they come your way!”