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Student Intern Blog

During Fall 2020, public health undergraduate student interns collaborated with health department staff and Mel and Enid College of Public Health faculty and staff to complete community engagement projects on behalf of the Academic Health Department Initiative. The students created a blog summarizing their experiences. Read on! 

Headshot of Jassmin Castro


 Name: Jassmin Castro 

 Hometown: Casa Grande, AZ   

During my internship for MEZCOPH’s Office of Community Engagement and Outreach’s Academic Health Department, I coordinated efforts to formalize an Academic Health Department partnership with Pinal County Health Department. I am passionate about the health of my community and how I can serve those around me. Since I grew up in Pinal County, I was able to bring to the internship an understanding of my community needs and potential health messaging strategies. While working with the health department, I collaborated with the Epidemiology Division Manager and the Public Health Director on a variety of projects driven by the community’s needs.

As part of my internship, I revised and reviewed Pinal County Health Department’s School Toolkit for responding to and reporting disease outbreaks and created educational information for parents, students, staff, and nurses. I developed the COVID-19 chapter for the school toolkit and researched content and messaging for infographics that were made in collaboration with a fellow graphic design intern. Additionally, I created content for messaging Influenza prevention as the upcoming flu season, in combination with the COVID-19 pandemic, continues to be a  concern. I developed messaging explaining the difference between a “case” and an “exposure” to reduce confusion among the community. Some organizations in Pinal County expressed concern on how to report a case while also respecting the individual’s privacy. In response to these concerns, I collaborated with Pinal County Health Department to draft a letter to schools addressing privacy concerns. I met with MEZCOPH faculty member, Leila Barraza, to understand confidentiality laws, especially in regards to school outbreaks.  While working on these projects, I also collaborated with University of Arizona faculty, Professor Kelly Reynolds, to learn more about disease transmission.  This internship has been a great opportunity to learn from a variety of public health professionals and understand the roles and responsibilities of a health department.

COVID-19 Pinal County School Letter

Pinal County COVID-19 School Letter

Chavez Headshot


  Name: Esmeralda Chavez 

  Hometown: Yuma, AZ

This semester, I competed my internship at MEZCOPH’s Office of Community Engagement and Outreach’s as a graphic designer. Interning with the Academic Health Department allowed me to be involved with projects I am passionate about. During the internship, I worked with the Yuma County Public Health Services District, located in my hometown, to create health material for the community. My first project was to make health material to promote influenza vaccinations for the farmworker community. Protecting farmworker health is important to me because my dad dedicated his life to farm work. Yuma has a large farmworker population, particularly in the winter, and the county wants to ensure these hardworking individual's health is protected. I enjoyed the opportunity to create materials that communicate public health information in a way that appeals to the target population and I am also thankful for the people I have met through this experience. 

Through my internship experience at the Academic Health Department, I worked and collaborated with kind, caring, and passionate people. I felt comfortable to share my ideas. Prior to starting my internship, I was apprehensive because I was not sure what to expect, but now I feel comfortable and am excited to help to keep my community healthy. Collaborating with Diana Gomez, Yuma County Public Health Services District Director, has been a fantastic experience. She is a great role model and is clearly passionate about her job and community, which is evident during our weekly meetings. As a Yuma County resident, it is comforting to know that our health director is such a caring and capable person.

Chavez, Graphic.png

Yuma County Health Department AHD Testing Graphic

Kendra Claridge


 Name: Kendra Claridge 

 Hometown: Thatcher, AZ

  The purpose of my internship with MEZCOPH’s Office of Community Engagement and Outreach was to formalize an Academic Health Department with Graham County Public Health Department. I am from Graham County (Thatcher) and thought it would be a great opportunity to work with my local health department, share resources, and give back to my community. My preceptor and I met with Graham County Health Department Director and he expressed interest in collaboration with MEZCOPH to address the opioid crisis in the county. After understanding the needs of the county, we partnered with the Center for Rural Health, which provides resources to people living in rural and underserved communities. I organized a meeting with The Center for Rural Health, MEZCOPH’s Office of Community Engagement and Outreach, and Graham County Substance Abuse Coalition, and Graham County Public Health Department to discuss opportunities for partnership to implement programs and resources available through MEZCOPH and Graham County to address the opioid crisis.

Along with working to establish an Academic Health Department in Graham County, I also developed a Graphics Library accessible through MEZCOPH’s Office of Community Engagement and Outreach website. I created a Graphics Library webpage to display all of the infographics created by current and previous interns in collaboration with public health researchers and health department staff. Content for the graphics is driven by the health priorities of each community and serve as a tool to communicate public health information to specific populations. I grouped the infographics in the graphic library into categories, so the infographics can be easily found and downloaded for use by anyone. I also regularly updated the webpage as new infographics were created.

Additionally, I developed the fall 2020 Academic Health Department Intern page. This included updating the website with the information for each student, as as well as a picture for each intern, so that people can get to know a little bit about each of us. I also assisted in reorganizing the layout of the Academic Health Department Website to make the information easily accessible.

My internship has been a great experience and I am learning new skills as I partner with various public health professionals. I will continue my internship in the spring and am very excited to continue to work with the Graham County Health Department and MEZCOPH faculty and staff. The Academic Health Department internship has been a great opportunity to form connections with people in the public health world and see the type of work they do every day.

The  AHD Graphics Library - a resource available to our partners and the general public

The  AHD Graphics Library - a resource available to our partners and the general public!

Catrina Caltagirone


 Name: Catrina Caltagirone 

 Hometown: San Francisco, CA 

 I assisted Pima County Health Department with content for safely reopening schools during the COVID-19 pandemic. It was fulfilling to be a part of such an important team with Pima County Health Department and MEZCOPH.  My tasks included gathering information on mitigation plans for classrooms, creating presentations explaining school athletics COVID-19 containment efforts, and organizing weekly notes for the health department/MEZCOPH team. I created  the Recommendation for Administrations Presentation for administrators in school athletics which was shared with schools throughout Pima County. It was interesting to observe how a health department functions and I enjoyed the opportunity to meet new people and make connections within the public health field. I learned how the health department keeps our communities safe, as well as learned how to professionally carry myself in the workplace, especially in a public health professional setting.

Presentation developed in collaboration with Pima County Health Department and MEZCOPH  for schools 

Jessica Martinez


 Name: Jessica Martinez  

 Hometown: Tucson, AZ

 I originally started my internship with Pima County Health Department, as part of MEZCOPH’s Office of Community Engagement and Outreach  Academic Health Department, where I supported the reopening of schools during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Subsequently, I was offered the opportunity to also work with Pinal County Health Department on this topic.  I worked with both counties to create a variety of public health graphics - unique graphic designs for each county. The graphics are designed to help each community adjust to new COVID prevention behaviors - like wearing a mask and social distancing. Working with both counties allowed me to observe how the work in public health can intertwine between communities, and the importance of the role that communication has in global pandemic. It was rewarding to see how each county has appreciated the graphics I created, and it is exciting to see how each county operates.

I discovered graphic design during my high school years and it became more of a hobby in college. I am passionate about both graphic design and public health. Before this internship, I hadn’t realized how graphic design can apply to public health. I am grateful to be a part of the effort to keep our communities safe during COVID-19. Despite the internship being virtual, I was able to connect with public health professionals both inside and outside of my community, and the internship provided me an opportunity to use my graphic design skills. It has been rewarding to see that the graphics I created are being used by county health departments and the Arizona Department of Health Services.

Social Distancing Graphic

Pinal County Health Department AHD Social Distancing Graphic

Shannon Storms


 Name: Shannon Storms 

 Hometown: Tucson, AZ

 During my internship, I collaborated with Cochise County Health and Social Services staff, developing graphics to address COVID-19 fatigue and stress. The project's purpose was to provide communities in Cochise County with easy to digest graphics with links for resources and/or tips for managing mental health wellbeing during the pandemic.

I served in the military, and because Cochise County has a high population of active and retired military, it made sense for me to develop messaging for the military community. I also collaborated with a MEZCOPH doctoral student studying suicide prevention. His expertise helped inform the messaging and graphics content. Cochise County Health Social Services shared the graphics I developed though their Facebook page and with organizations directly serving veterans in the community.

Additionally, I supported a graphic partnership with the University of Arizona Prevention Research Center (AzPRC) - a collaboration that strives to address chronic disease health disparities in underserved populations in Southern Arizona. I developed a graphic on the evaluation of AzPRC’s Linking Individual Needs to Community and Clinical Service (LINKS) Program.  LINKS is a community health worker model program designed to create a continuum of services between primary care and community services.  Local health departments, MEZCOPH, and federally qualified health centers are part of the program, which serves as excellent example of blending public health research and practice to meet community needs.

Mental Health Graphic

Cochise Health and Social Services AHD Mental Health Graphic

The University of Arizona red triangle graphic