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Internship takes public health student to CDC headquarters

Feb. 26, 2024

A group of students stand on stairs outside of a building
Emma Rohan (first row, second from right) is a senior public health major from Union, Missouri. Rohan completed an internship with the University of Michigan’s Future Public Health Leaders Program, which they said paired well with the hands-on experiences they’ve had at Mizzou.

When Emma Rohan landed a position with the University of Michigan’s Future Public Health Leaders Program (FPHLP), they expected to spend most of their time sharing public health knowledge.

While that was certainly part of the program, Rohan said they ended up uncovering the truly cyclical nature of education.

“I’ve always wanted to be a sexual health educator, and I had high hopes for spreading knowledge this summer,” Rohan said. “What surprised me was how I listened far more than I taught — and in return, what I taught was well-accepted, necessary and appreciated.”

The FPHLP brings students to the University of Michigan for a 10-week program designed to increase the diversity of the public health workforce and the people committed to reducing health disparities. The program, which is funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), teaches participants about the field of public health through a combination of field placements, skill-building workshops and mentorship opportunities.

Emma Rohan

Rohan, a senior public health major from Union, Missouri, said half of their time each week was dedicated to projects highlighting how the government and local public health departments can better serve their communities. They spent the rest of their time with a nonprofit called UNIFIED – HIV Health and Beyond (UHHB), where they were responsible for community outreach as well as distributing materials and resources at events in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and the larger Detroit metro area.

They also assisted with free HIV and STI testing both on site and through a mobile clinic at events. They were responsible for helping patients sign up, create profiles, complete paperwork and access information on when they would be tested and when results would be available.

Rohan also had the opportunity to create a poster about HIV prevention, education and care in Michigan and present it during the conclusion of the program at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta. Their poster focused on how learning what community members want to know — and what they don’t know — before attempting to educate is integral to fostering connection, understanding and openness.

Long term, Rohan hopes to work through public policy and public school administration to adopt sex education into curriculum. They are pursuing two degrees at Mizzou, with plans to attend graduate school after completing those degrees in May 2025. Thanks to their public health experience through this internship as well as at Mizzou, Rohan said they feel equipped to pursue those dreams.

“It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has set me up for the rest of undergrad, graduate school, and my future career,” they said. “I could not be more grateful to have been part of such a rigorous yet rewarding program.”