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Students Gain Hands-On Global Health Experience through Fourth Annual IntraHealth-UNC Summer Fellows Program

At a reception on August 2, IntraHealth International’s 2013 Global Health Fellows formally completed their fellowships and presented their work to IntraHealth staff, University of North Carolina (UNC) faculty, and other guests. The ceremony marked the end of the fourth annual UNC-IntraHealth Fellows Program in global health.

Using a mentorship model, the fellowship program connects future leaders in global health to today’s global health experts and provides hands-on experience working for an international nongovernmental organization. Through the program, each fellow is assigned a mentor who oversees the completion of a specific project that directly contributes to one of IntraHealth’s health programs or goals. The fellows program is collaborative—students learn from each other as they explore many aspects of the organization and focus on their own development as leaders.

“Being able to meet and interact with several members of the organization and discuss career paths were invaluable experiences that aren’t a primary part of a typical internship or graduate program,” says 2013 fellow Katelyn Bryant-Comstock. “I feel like we’ll all leave this summer with new ideas and a more critical eye for how to approach our own projects and careers.”

This year’s fellows completed projects on family planning advocacy, monitoring and evaluation, preservice education, and nursing school management.

“One of the best parts of the fellowship program is not only watching the fellows grow and learn from each other, but also watching how they change and shape the work we’re doing at IntraHealth,” says Judith Winkler, IntraHealth’s senior advisor for strategy and planning and director of the IntraHealth-UNC Fellows Program. “Their ability to jump right in and the quality of their contributions continue to surpass my expectations each year.”

The IntraHealth-UNC Summer Fellows Program began in 2010. A total of 18 fellows have now completed the annual 10-week program. All graduate students enrolled at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health are eligible to apply. Applications become available each year in the fall.


Meet the 2013 IntraHealth-UNC Summer Fellows

Katelyn Bryant-Comstock

Katelyn Bryant-Comstock

Katelyn Bryant-Comstock

Katelyn Bryant-Comstock is passionate about women’s health and family planning. And now, thanks to her fellowship with IntraHealth, she’s passionate about data collection, too.

During her previous work as an intern for the Women’s International Network for Guatemalan Solutions, Katelyn researched the state of family planning in Guatemala and drafted grant proposals. As an intern for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina, she created a clinic advocacy awareness program. Before beginning her graduate studies, Katelyn worked for two years at the Centre for Development and Population Activities as a senior associate in communications and capacity building. This fall, she will work at UNC Student Wellness as a health education counselor of sexuality and is contributing to a systematic review of content accuracy in US crisis pregnancy center websites as a research assistant.

Katelyn’s fellowship project included reviewing data on IntraHealth’s family planning programs and preparing publications in advance of the International Family Planning Conference, which will be held in Ethiopia this November. After earning her master’s degree in public health in the area of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Katelyn plans to work internationally to implement family planning programs. She has lots of new ideas on how to improve data collection and use in family planning. Katelyn’s mentor was Laura Hoemeke, IntraHealth’s director of communications and advocacy.

Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan

Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan

Lakshmi Gopalakrishnan

Lakshmi is a pragmatic idealist—an idealist because she dreams of helping to shape a better world, and a pragmatist because she believes this can be best achieved by engaging directly with communities.

Although Lakshmi pursued a bachelor’s degree in computer science engineering followed by a master’s degree in information systems, she wanted to pursue a career that affects a great number of lives and empowers people. So she transitioned to work in social sector advisory services and worked as a consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers and Deloitte. Through her consulting experiences, she worked closely with state governments in India and funding agencies on a wide range of projects, including policy formulation, creating public-private partnership frameworks, process mapping for a public drug-procurement system, and documenting challenges faced by women and children.

Lakshmi is now pursuing her master’s degree in public health in the area of maternal and child health at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. She is a recipient of the Fulbright Nehru Master’s Fellowship for Leadership (2013-14). At UNC, she formed the Global Health Journal Club for students to share, discuss, and critique emerging scientific research. At the end of her graduate program, she plans to return to India and work on strengthening existing health programs. She has a strong interest in community health programs and hopes to work on programs designed to build the capacity of communities to address health needs through empowerment, fostering equity, and addressing the social determinants of health.

For her fellowship project, Lakshmi worked with IntraHealth staff on the FUNZOKenya project. She analyzed survey data and documented bottlenecks in preservice medical training institutions in Kenya. Her mentor was Leigh Shamblin, senior program manager.

Ariana Katz

Ariana Katz

Ariana Katz

Ariana Katz has a longstanding commitment to finding creative ways to end AIDS. This commitment was solidified in 2005 when she interned with AWA in Dakar, Senegal, where she researched the history of HIV and sexually transmitted infections, interviewed social workers, and provided meals to female sex workers. In 2006 she carried her passion back to the US where she co-facilitated support groups for individuals living with HIV as part of an internship at the AIDS Service Center and Phil Simon Clinic in Pasadena, California. She went on to work for the Shanti Project, an organization in San Francisco that is dedicated to enhancing the quality of life, health, and well-being of people living with life-threatening illnesses such as HIV/AIDS and cancer. Her professional interests include HIV/AIDS, noncommunicable diseases, community health workers, and research-based programming. Ariana is now pursuing her master’s degree in public health in the area of health behavior at the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. 

Ariana’s fellowship took her to Ghana with CapacityPlus, a global project led by IntraHealth, where she collected data and assessed a private nursing school’s progress on improving school management activities. The school was implementing the project’s School Management Package—a CapacityPlus tool. Her analysis and recommendations will inform the project’s monitoring plans for the coming year. Ariana’s mentor was Rebecca Bailey, health workforce development team lead.

Leigh Tally

Leigh Tally

Leigh Tally

As a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, Leigh saw firsthand how health systems-level barriers—commodity scarcity, poor-quality services, and a lack of preventive care—were failing her village, where high HIV prevalence rates prevailed. As a malaria program specialist with Peace Corps Response, Leigh also experienced the other side of the health care spectrum by working closely with Kenyan government officials to support malaria control activities. After earning her master’s degree in public health in the area of maternal and child health from the UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, Leigh hopes to return to hands-on health program implementation work. Her interests include monitoring and evaluation, infectious diseases, complex emergencies, mobile technologies, and health systems strengthening.

Leigh’s fellowship project took her to Namibia, where she assisted IntraHealth staff with organizing and implementing a data quality assessment. She had the opportunity to visit many urban and rural health centers and prepared a report of her findings. Leigh’s mentor was Nick Ford, senior program manager.