University of South Florida graduate student Shriya Bhatnagar shares how her internship experience with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave her direction, motivation, and insight into her future career. She now plans to pursue a doctorate in infectious disease and epidemiology.
Tell us about your background and academic interests.
As a graduate from the University of Georgia with a bachelor’s degree in Nutritional Sciences, I wanted to explore the healthcare field and enjoyed the role that nutrition played in influencing clinical outcomes in patients. My research involved cardiovascular disease, and I quickly became interested in disease outcome and prevention. While working in a clinic over my gap-year following my graduation from UGA, I became more interested in infectious disease. In fall 2021, I enrolled in the University of South Florida to pursue a master's degree with a dual concentration in epidemiology and global communicable diseases. I became passionate about health outcomes on the population level, and hoped to become involved in infectious disease prevention, epidemiology, and policy implications of interventions for communities affected by infectious diseases.
Where was your internship and what were some of your responsibilities?
I interned with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Bacterial Diseases within the Respiratory Diseases Branch, working in vaccine policy implementation for pneumococcal disease prevention.
I assisted in performing systematic reviews of evidence for the effectiveness, immunogenicity, and safety of pneumococcal vaccines and summarizing the relevant literature. This analysis is used to inform the Evidence to Recommendation Guidelines and the eventual discussion at the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) work group. The data presented at these work groups influence the vaccine policy decisions for prevention and control of community acquired bacterial respiratory and neonatal infections through vaccine recommendations.
Why did you decide to apply for a CDC internship with TWC?
I felt that TWC would be a fantastic experience given its emphasis on assisting minority students achieve positions within the federal government and their focus on professional development. The CDC is the premier research institution for infectious diseases and policy implementation and has provided me with invaluable experience that will bolster my career in infectious disease.
The CDC is the premier research institution for infectious diseases and policy implementation and has provided me with invaluable experience that will bolster my career in infectious disease.
What did you value the most about your internship?
I valued the collaboration with my team and building my skillset involving systematic reviews, conducting literature searches, and participating in ACIP workgroup discussions that influence vaccine policy.
Tell us about a project you worked on during your internship that was your favorite, the most challenging, or the most exciting.
The most challenging project that I worked on is searching for literature that can provide us information of acceptability, equity, and feasibility of vaccines, as I think this is an opportunity for public health professionals to expand their scope of practice. This is a unique perspective on vaccines, as it engages a community aspect to vaccine policy approval.
How were you able to apply your academic studies to your internship work?
Within my academic studies, I focused on prevention and intervention strategies in infectious disease epidemiology, and this involves a broad range of diseases and considerations to be made when approaching communities affected with disease. Within public health, it is crucial to approach communities by asking what we as public health professionals can do to help and learning about the cultures of different communities to inform on our intervention strategies. I can apply this to my internship work by ensuring I find and present relevant literature that incorporates this perspective into vaccine approval within the population, as there are many cultural and community-oriented considerations that are important.
How has this experience influenced your career goals?
This experience has given me incredible direction, motivation, and insight into my future career. I hope to pursue my Ph.D. in Infectious Disease Epidemiology and apply to the EIS (Epidemic Intelligence Service) to participate in research and deployment into epidemic areas to conduct disease surveillance and develop prevention strategies.
How have you benefitted from being a federal intern?
I have benefitted by gaining experience in a federal setting and accommodating to a bureaucratic role, which is a unique experience that I did not receive in my experience in private healthcare practice. I believe that becoming a federal intern provides a broad perspective on public health and is important to better inform public health practitioners on the large scale that we must consider when discussing policy.
I have benefitted by gaining experience in a federal setting and accommodating to a bureaucratic role, which is a unique experience that I did not receive in my experience in private healthcare practice.
What advice do you have for other students considering a federal internship with TWC?
I advise them to join in as many work group discussions among their teams as possible and to not be afraid to reach out and apply for as many opportunities as possible during the duration of their internship, as within the federal level there are so many opportunities for lateral movement into more interesting positions, and it is extremely beneficial to take advantage of these opportunities while they are available.
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