School of Public Health and Community Medicine

Student Profile

Caitlin Swift
Internship; Master of Public Health (MPH) / Master of International Public Health (MIPH) (Dual Degree)
Mode of study : 
Full-time; External by Distance
Country : 
Australia
Previous Education : 
BSc, MBBS

I decided to enrol in the internship program as part of my degree at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine as I was very keen to get some real-world experience in public health to supplement my university Master of Public Health (MPH) / Master of International Public Health (MIPH) studies. I had previously only worked in clinical environments and felt that completing some work experience in a supportive environment would assist me with successfully shifting towards working in a public health environment.

Which organisation were you placed with?

I was lucky to be placed with my first preference, the Communicable Diseases Branch (CDB) of Health Protection NSW. I spent most of my time with the Vaccine-Preventable Diseases team but was also exposed to the work of the other departments within CDB through regular meetings between teams, and also to the work occurring in Public Health Units across NSW through regular teleconferences and educational meetings. I also spent several days working in the infectious diseases team at a Public Health Unit so was able to gain good perspectives of working in public health at both state and local levels.

What has been the most rewarding thing about your internship?

There were many rewarding aspects of my internship placement, but I particularly appreciated the opportunity to experience public health in action after learning the theory during my studies. I completed my placement during a time in which several measles cases were notified in NSW, so experienced the significant public health response to these notifications and assisted with outbreak control activities such as issuing media alerts, contact tracing, using the Australian Immunisation Register to verify vaccination histories and also assisted at a measles vaccination clinic. I witnessed the strong collaborative and multi-disciplinary approach required to achieve communicable disease control, particularly the interaction between the Ministry of Health and the local Public Health Units.

Aside from assisting with these and other communicable disease control activities as they arose, I also completed a written report on the epidemiology of rubella in NSW during my internship placement. This significantly enhanced my skills in data analysis and academic writing and improved my knowledge and critical thinking ability about disease surveillance systems. I also wrote several drafts of sections of the CDB weekly report, which is publically published online and further enhanced my skills in public health written communication.

Would you recommend the internship program to other students and why? 

I would definitely recommend the internship program to other students who would like to consolidate the knowledge and skills they have learnt during their studies, gain practical public health experience and strengthen their professional networks in public health.

How do you think the internship will assist you in your future career?  

I completed my internship during the last semester of my studies and was fortunate that a job opportunity I was newly eligible for actually arose during the last week of my placement. I applied for this job with my internship experience prominent within my application and am sure that the experience and skills I gained during my internship helped me to secure this position and transition smoothly into the public health workforce.