Written by Sana Haider
Major: Community Health
Minor :General Business
Graduated: December 2016
Growing up, I believed the only way to save lives through healthcare was by becoming a doctor and treating patients. But at UMD, I quickly discovered the preventative field of public health, which inspired me to switch my major to Community Health, take on the Federal Fellows Program in Public Health Policy, and enroll in the Smith Minor for General Business. My growing curiosity for epidemiology led me to pursue various internships in hopes of refining my career goals.
Before graduating in December, I wanted to broaden my skillset – so I kept my eyes open for summer 2016 opportunities, especially on the School of Public Health Listserv. One day I came across an announcement from the Joint Program in Survey Methodology (JPSM) at UMD, which offers a Junior Fellows Program, placing undergraduates in paid internship positions at major U.S. federal statistical agencies. I immediately made the decision to apply, since I knew survey methodology was a multidisciplinary field, and I was interested in both research and the federal government. I contacted the University Career Center to help format my resume and cover letter, and their resources helped me present myself in the most marketable manner. For my letter of recommendation, I asked my former professor that I had worked with as a research assistant.
As a JPSM Junior Fellow, I was fortunate enough to be placed at the Centers for Disease Control’s National Center for Health Statistics – the agency most closely aligned with my interests. I worked under the guidance of an exceptionally talented statistician, who served as my supervisor and mentor. I learned how to code using the Statistical Analysis System (SAS), and familiarized myself with the National Health Interview Survey design. With this knowledge, I analyzed the change in race/ethnicity composition by comparing annual survey samples from 2006-2014 and changes in U.S. race/ethnicity composition. I then prepared an analysis report and presented my findings and recommendations to the Division of the Health Interview Survey (DHIS). Overall, I had an extremely rewarding experience in a truly encouraging, professional environment.
On top of all that, I was provided housing at GWU’s Summer Conference Housing – with a beautiful view of the Washington Monument from my rooftop and of the American Red Cross from my window. I also met about 20 other students from around the country, with similar interests and diverse backgrounds. We attended survey methodology lectures, seminars, conferences, key agency field visits, and fun social events. Being around such capable and ambitious colleagues was both motivating and humbling.
After this experience, I want to stress the importance of networking. Be eager, ask questions. Follow up, stay in touch. If something sparks your interest, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. Many times I inquired about an informational interview and was pleasantly surprised by an invitation for coffee or lunch. Without a doubt, you will take something away from each person’s unique background, which will either directly or indirectly help you move to the next stage of your own life and career.