Weeks 10 & 11:
Presenting in the Emerald City

Stark Fellow in Public Health

Marion Board of Health | Marion, Massachusetts

August 26, 2019

Some of my blog posts have had a “Wizard of Oz” theme unintentionally, I thought I should keep with it for my last one! After leaving MA, I had a week at home to “relax” before heading back to campus on the 12th. Relax is in quotations because there was still plenty of work to do. Shortly after arriving back to Minnesota I was taking the GRE, packing to go back to campus, and running little errands that can only be accomplished at home. When we finished all of that, I did get a little time to actually relax.

During this time, I got my abstract back with various comments from the MDPH Epidemiologists that reviewed it. I learned that I would not be doing an oral presentation and needed to present a poster instead. The comments on the abstract were numerous, however, they weren’t particularly focused on the writing or phrasing of the abstract but on my project itself. These reviewers made it clear that I needed to include more background information and make my project more understandable. This process of reviewing and re-writing has definitely taken longer than I anticipated but it’s helped me improve my writing and overall communication skills. I know the work I did, illustrating it to someone else is just as important.

My final abstract in the booklet of all the intern project descriptions. All the rewriting paid off!

Being able to do that well became of high importance when creating my poster as well. Having never done a poster presentation before, a decent amount of my time at home was spent creating and reviewing the poster with my supervisor over the phone. Fortunately, Cornell’s academic technology studio has a few templates available for students to use so I didn’t have to start completely from scratch. I finished a first draft, sent it off to my supervisor and my Cornell advisor, hopped in the car, and drove back to campus to move in. I am apart of the New Student Orientation staff for my second year, because we plan much of the training of Peer Advocate training and assist with other details for NSO, I move in two weeks before classes start. I spent a night on campus, got my poster printed, started working with my fellow orientation staff, and then flew back to Boston for the closing session of the Local Internship Program at the MDPH State Laboratory.

The placard on the inside of the State Laboratory!

The closing session was marketed as being one of the highlights of the internship experience and it definitely didn’t disappoint. All of the interns from the program were present, meaning I got to see familiar faces and catch up with those I hadn’t seen all summer. I arrived early to unfurl my poster and put it in a good, eye-catching spot before they were all taken. Each intern in the program had to create a poster to present on one of their projects.

Me and my poster, I love how it turned out, I was able to hang it in the front of the room!

The poster presentations were broken up into two sessions, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Due to my flights that day and travel time, I requested going in the morning. Luckily, there was some time before my presentation to walk around and peak at the other posters. It was amazing to see all the things my peers had done. Projects were on a variety of topics including data validation, tick prevention clinics, substance use prevention, emergency medical training, and food safety. It felt as though all the major public health subjects were covered in the projects that were completed. I had a number of people visit me during my presentation or ask questions about the poster during other periods. Some of the other interns that I had seen throughout the summer at various MDPH things even came by to ask me about it and have me show them my StoryMap. Since the poster was presented, the data in the StoryMap is officially public. Which means…I can show you all! Here is the link if you want to visit and look at it yourselves: Nursing StoryMap.

The final StoryMap, such an integral part of this project!

This a part of my work that really brings what I made with the registry to life. The photo above is of my first map. This shows which type of public health nursing each town used by color. As you can see, in the western part of MA, which is more rural, there are not as many Board of Health Nurses as there are on the eastern part of MA which more populated. This map illustrates just how many types of nursing exist and how they are being utilized throughout the regions in the state. One of the coolest features is clicking on any one town will show a pop-up of that towns nurse and contact information for that Public Health Nurse. Hopefully, if this data becomes more widespread, laypeople or officials within MDPH can use that feature to find and contact a specific nurse of interest. The MDPH Office of Local and Regional Health had fortunately agreed to keep the registry up to date from here on out so it can remain a comprehensive updated registry.

An example pop-up showing the nurse for Belchertown

Following the poster session were six oral presentations from various interns. The presentations went well and showcased projects specializing in different areas. It was awesome learning about what my peers did with their summers in comparison to mine. I am so proud of all the work we did and the things we accomplished. It was also time for final goodbyes. My supervisor came to the closing session to see my poster, introduce me to MDPH staff I had only spoken with over the phone, and see me one last time. We had said goodbye when I was leaving Marion a few weeks prior but this one felt more real. I’m not sure when I’ll see her in person again, I know I will definitely keep in contact in the months and years to come. I truly cannot thank her enough for the guidance and wisdom she has given me.

Me, my supervisor, and one of our MDPH contributors in front of my poster

Coming back to Iowa after the closing session, my flight was literally that evening, I had some time to reflect on this summer as a whole. This experience, more than anything else, has absolutely solidified my interest in public health. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the field I want to go into after I graduate. Now I have a better idea of what I want to learn and do in whatever graduate program I go into. I know that epidemiology is my primary interest along with behavioral health, so I definitely want to continue on a path that allows me to become a social epidemiologist. This summer has also shown me that there are lots of ways to get to that destination. Before this experience I was all over the place in terms of what programs, schools, and graduate degrees I was interested in. Honestly, thinking about all of the decisions I would need to make, and their impact, stressed me out – I thought I had a short deadline to choose by. Now I know that I can take time after I graduate to think through my decisions and the path I want to take. I have more resources than I thought I did and way more time to make the choice that is going to be right for me. This experience has given me clarity about the future that I wasn’t expecting and I am so thankful to have had this opportunity.

MaryJo Schmidt '20

MaryJo is a biochemistry major and psychology and sociology double minor from St. Michael, Minnesota.