16th Thacher Annual
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MPH Summer 2013 Fieldwork Experience by Kristie Ruby

As a culminating fieldwork experience for my Master of Public Health (MPH) degree, I was selected to intern with the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. I had a chance to work with both the Department of Public Health and Environment, as well as with the Polio Surveillance Data Team, and was able to learn so much for my excellent preceptors and fellow colleagues.

One of my main projects during my time with the Department of the Environment was to contribute to a publication which examines the impact that the health sector has on greenhouse gas emissions, and to assesses the substantial benefits that such reductions could have on human health and the environment at a global level. I was also involved in conducting a survey of occupation exposure to hepatitis B among health workers in Africa, which was such a fascinating subject I previously knew so little about! Working with the Polio team, my main responsibility was to finalize a global geo database of acute flaccid paralysis cases reported between 1997 and 2013. By compiling this important legacy data in a central database, the polio team will be able to target future vaccination efforts and better respond to polio outbreaks, helping to finalize eradication efforts.

In addition to my primary work assignments, I also had a chance to attend the World Health Assembly (WHA) during my first week in Geneva. The WHA is the decision-making body of WHO that helps to determine the policies of the organization, appoint the Director-General, and approve the proposed budget. It was an amazing experience to be able to witness the degree of cooperation that is required between such diverse countries in order to approve important health decisions.
Interning at WHO was an excellent opportunity, and I learned so much during my placement in Geneva. The fieldwork experience is an indispensable final requirement of the MPH program at USF, and has really helped me to shape my future career goals and pinpoint my interest in pandemic prevention and outbreak response. - Kirstie Ruby, MPH Cohort 1
Written by Kirstie Ruby, MPH Cohort 1