Julianna is a 3rd-year student at the University of Colorado Boulder, studying sociology and geography. This semester she’s interning with the National Environmental Health Association’s (NEHA) Program and Partnership Development team in Washington, DC, through the Association of State Public Health Nutritionists (ASPHN) Health Equity Internship Program. She plans to pursue a Master of Public Health (MPH) after graduation, focused on the social and environmental determinants of health. In her spare time, Julianna loves playing the piano, exploring new places, and cooking.
Q: What attracted you to an internship with NEHA?
A: As a sociology student, I had taken several environmental sociology classes and was drawn to their sections on the environmental determinants of health. When I began looking for internships in Washington, DC, one of the first ones I found was NEHA! Before that, I didn’t know that a specific subset of public health had been dedicated to environmental health and I was eager to spend time in an environment dedicated to the topic.
Q: What have you been working on during your internship?
A: I’ve been primarily focused on children’s health and their particular susceptibility to climate hazards. My biggest project this semester was developing the Children’s Environmental Health web page, which is now live! That was a culmination of all the other things I’d worked on this semester, including a national children’s health resources scan and several blog posts ranging from lead poisoning prevention to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in our water. The goal was to figure out what was being done for children’s health, what still needs to be done, and how we can best communicate with the environmental health workforce to help them implement those solutions in their communities.
Q: What have you learned and what skills have you gained from your internship?
A: So many! I’ve definitely honed in on my writing and communications skills, above all else. So much of this work has been figuring out how to take information that already exists and then make it more digestible and specific to NEHA’s unique audience—be it in the form of a blog post, web page development, social media post, or a presentation. Being at the forefront of the environmental health workforce means that we have a distinctive ability to suggest effective actions for change and I had to figure out how best to do that.
Q: How will this experience help to further your career as an environmental health professional?
A: Through my internship I’ve learned much more about what parts of environmental health I’m interested in and where my strengths lie. For example, I know that I’m passionate about climate change, children’s health, and education, and can go forward with that knowledge when I’m figuring out my future career path.
Q: What’s been your favorite part of the internship?
A: Part of my internship program through the ASPHN Health Equity Internship Program was the opportunity to participate in a professional development opportunity. This semester’s cohort was given the chance to attend the American Public Health Association’s (APHA) annual conference in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was a really amazing opportunity to network and get to know APHA, including spending some quality time with my NEHA advisor, Dr. Natasha DeJarnett; my fellow ASPHN interns; and other key public health players! I was also able to join the Environment Section of APHA, which helped take such a large, overwhelming experience and make it much more approachable and informational.
I’ve also had a lot of opportunities to attend partner meetings in person with the NEHA staff and got to do a lot of networking there. These opportunities included attending the Maternal and Child Health Collaborative Improvement and Innovation Network meeting in September, a Capitol Hill briefing on PFAS in October, and an environmental justice hearing last month. My internship has been a wonderful way to not only attend interesting environmental health events but also meet and get to know the people behind the curtain.
Q: What advice do you have for future interns?
A: Advocate for yourself! All of the staff at NEHA are so kind and accommodating; if you tell them what you’re interested in, they’ll help you find projects that focus on those areas. If you like the work you’re doing, you’ll do it better!
Q: What’s next?
A: I will be returning to Colorado this spring to complete my degree in Boulder. After that, I’ll hopefully be moving back to the East Coast for an MPH program, and eventually to work! Being in Washington, DC, has confirmed that this location is where I want to be and I definitely see myself moving back here as soon as possible.
Q: Where can we find everything you’ve worked on this semester?
A: I’ll make a list!
- There’s No Safe Level of Lead Exposure: Stories of Lead Poisoning and Prevention
- CEH Day 2019: The Importance of Protecting Children’s Health
- PFAS, Policy, and Power: Community Engagement for Water Safety
- And the one you’re reading now!