Roza Tammer - Connecticut

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Internship location: Ansonia, Seymour, Meriden and Wallingford, Conn.
Career goal: To be engaged in public health practice. My focus is applied epidemiology, and I ideally want to work for a public agency in the area of infectious disease surveillance

Internship summary:
Overdoses caused by prescription opioids are the leading cause of accidental death in Connecticut. Our goal was to collect adequate information in order to predict and prevent these deaths, and to develop a community-relevant response to the problem in towns that had experienced three or more such deaths in 2009. I conducted qualitative interviews with community stakeholders and performed background research, qualitative data coding, analysis and interpretation. Additionally, I participated in weekly meetings with the community advisory board and research core and prepared and presented data.

Value of experience:
Fieldwork is a crucial part of public health practice and research, and hands-on experience working directly with a diverse community is academically, professionally and personally instructive. The internship gave me the opportunity to be trained in qualitative data collection and analysis methods, which are best learned in the field rather than in a classroom. Working with my YSPH advisor and other faculty, who were members of the research core, YSPH alumni and staff at the Rhode Island Hospital was a valuable opportunity to network with other public health professionals.

Best moment:
The opportunity to work directly with a group of people and hear their perspectives about an important health problem affecting their community: unintentional prescription opioid overdose. The fact that our study was qualitative and deliberately included a wide range of stakeholders with vastly different opinions assured that we would get a real sense of community perspective.