IntraHealth-UNC Global Health Fellowship Jumpstarts Graduate Students’ Careers, Links School to Service

July 29, 2010, Chapel Hill, NC—Four masters’ students and one doctoral candidate from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health shared their global health research and insights at the culmination of a 10-week joint fellowship with IntraHealth International, this Wednesday during a poster exhibition and discussion with faculty and staff.

Founded this year, the IntraHealth-UNC Summer Fellows Program gives graduate students at the nation's leading public school of public health an opportunity to complete a required 10-week internship with a local global health NGO, providing more practical, applicable experience and lending more continuity between students and staff, post-fellowship.

“There aren’t a lot of paid, structured opportunities out there for public health interns” says Laura Houenou, a fellow who supported IntraHealth’s USAID-funded project in Senegal this summer, “and even fewer for global health,” she adds. Fluent in French, Houenou created questionnaires as part of an overall evaluation plan for following up with French-speaking health workers, trained by IntraHealth medical staff in maternal health, family planning and malaria. “When I started my masters', I had my heart set on an internship abroad,”  Houenou says. “I became attracted to this program because it offered so much of the international experience I was looking for, just miles from campus.”

The full-time, paid program allows students to gain direct experience in one of IntraHealth’s key program areas—-HIV/AIDS, family planning, maternal and child health, and health systems strengthening—-as well as cross-cutting technical areas and program development. This is supplemented by frequent interaction across all departments through seminars, workshops, brown bag presentations, working meetings and formal mentorship.

The other fellows—-Kristen Brugh, Natalie Gill, Kate Krieger, and Zulfiya Chariyeva from the departments of Maternal and Child Health, Health Policy and Management, and Health Behavior and Health Education—-echoed Houenou’s enthusiasm for the fellowship, remarking that the cumulative experience is more integrated and stimulating than what they called “typical” internships.

“This internship is the perfect example of what we would like to see more of; we can’t educate our students without organizations like IntraHealth,” explains Gretchen Van Vliet, director of the Office of Global Health in UNC’s school of public health. “While [students] are learning things in the classroom, they need to be able to apply, and to see, theories in action, here in an organization.”

IntraHealth was a program of the UNC School of Medicine for 23 years, known as Intrah, until 2003, when it became an independent nonprofit.

“We have been thrilled to collaborate with UNC on making this fellowship happen,” says Rebecca Kohler, vice president for strategic development and communications at IntraHealth. “In many of our projects throughout the world, we work to strengthen the basic training of health professionals.”  Kohler adds that the program “brings this approach home, linking graduates students from the Triangle with practical, hands-on experience that links students to IntraHealth programs in the field.”

IntraHealth International is a global health nonprofit that champions the critical role of health workers in health and development. For over 30 years, IntraHealth has empowered health workers to better serve communities in need, fostering local solutions to health care challenges by improving health worker performance, strengthening health systems, harnessing technology, and leveraging partnerships. The nonprofit’s work is supported and funded by the US Agency for International Development, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, private foundations, corporations and individuals.

Contact: Laura Hoemeke
IntraHealth International
+1 919-360-7799