Alice Westerman ’21

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA

This summer, I had the pleasure of working with the Laboratory Leadership Service in the Epidemiology Workforce Branch at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This internship was made possible through the connection of Dr. Nick Wright ’57, and his continued support of students interested in public health careers. The team I worked with at the CDC supports a two-year fellowship through the CDC, training the next generation of public health laboratory scientists. In my eight-week internship with the CDC, I was so impressed and encouraged by the culture of collaboration and support. I also gained incredible insight into how public health at the federal level operates. It was certainly an odd summer to work at CDC, especially since I was doing many routine tasks that happen annually, but I was well aware of the larger pandemic response happening at the agency. The fellowship program I was working for was greatly influenced by the pandemic, since all of the education was remote, and the summer course that was training the Ph.Ds. to go out into the field had been condensed into a 10-day course. Most of my daily tasks were in support of this summer course, working on quality control for online learning platforms and managing the diagnostic and final test for evaluation. In addition, I had the opportunity to manage a wrap-up focus group for the fellowship, and I presented the qualitative results to the LLS team upon completion. I also attended the virtual summer course, which exposed me to the education that public health officials receive before going into the field, and it reinforced my interest and desire to work in public health.

All things considered, this internship was a great opportunity amidst a global crisis. I was so grateful for the regularity of a 9-5 working day when everything else was so up in the air. The team I worked with at the CDC cared deeply about my professional development, and encouraged me to make connections with other professionals. Some CDC employees took it upon themselves to have intern-only events, such as a real case study activity that demonstrated how epidemiology intelligence 
officers respond to outbreaks. They also put together events for us to discuss our career plans, which helped me as I consider my own path after graduation. Our supervisors were very trusting, and gave us lots of responsibility. Additionally, I grew professionally as a remote and independent worker, which is such a crucial skill as the pandemic continues. Being able to get familiar with a team of people, and comfortable enough to ask questions is quite difficult when you have never met them in person, and yet I was able to develop this skill as the internship progressed. Overall, the experience was valuable, and led me to make important career connections and helped me develop independent professional skills in public health. I am so grateful to Dr. Wright who arranged this internship, and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making it possible through the Alumni Sponsored Internship Program.