SAMHSA Intern Finds Meaningful Work on Projects That Could Impact Millions

December 9, 2022 The Washington Center

Intern Spotlight: Jorge Garcia-Cordero

A recent MPH graduate from George Mason University, Jorge Garcia-Cordero found challenging and rewarding work, while discovering his career goals, through an internship with the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). 

Tell us about your background and academic interests. 

I have a B.S in Neuroscience from the University of Pittsburgh with a minor in chemistry, and I’m a recent MPH graduate with an epidemiology concentration from George Mason University. Between undergrad and graduate school, I worked as a community health worker with the Fairfax County Health Department’s COVID-19 emergency response. 

Where was your internship and what were some of your responsibilities?  

My internship was with SAMHSA in the Office of Prevention Innovation (OPI) in the Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP). I just finished working on a practicum paper analyzing substance use data, so that has taken most of my time.  

Other than projects, I’ve spent a lot of time in meetings (internal, agency wide, and cross center or agency meetings). I would typically have a check in with supervisors, then proceed with daily tasks. Daily tasks usually are researching topics and creating reports or documents.   

Why did you decide to apply for a SAMHSA internship with TWC?  

I needed a practicum experience for graduate school and when I saw that SAMHSA partnered with TWC, I knew it’d be a great opportunity to get my foot in the door with a federal public health agency.  

What did you value the most about your internship?  

The hands-on aspect, despite being remote. The work has been challenging but rewarding. The policy and agenda items we work on show up on national news and impact millions of people.  

Tell us about a project you worked on during your internship that was your favorite, the most challenging, or the most exciting.  

I worked on National Survey of Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) data analyzing marijuana use in the U.S. I aggregated other CDC data sets to compare methodologies and the responses received.  

There were many challenging bureaucratic roadblocks, but part of the fun is figuring it out. It was a big undertaking, and I enjoyed the work very much.  

I know I would love to work in the federal government for sure now. There are so many opportunities for growth professionally and personally.

How were you able to apply your academic studies to your internship work?  

Everything I learned in epidemiology & biostatistics classes. Using R studio to analyze huge data sets was invaluable; I found myself frequently looking over old notes to help me with my work. 

How has this experience influenced your career goals?   

I know I would love to work in the federal government for sure now. There are so many opportunities for growth professionally and personally.  

Intern Spotlight: Jorge Garcia-Cordero

How have you benefited from being a federal intern?  

Understanding the federal government’s workflow and meeting outstanding civil servants passionate about the same things. I also learned how hiring works and the ins and outs of that process. 

What advice do you have for other students considering a federal internship with TWC?   

This is a wonderful opportunity to get your feet wet with federal government work and find out if it’s for you or not.  

You are going to do such meaningful work and meet extraordinary people. So, take the opportunity to improve your educational experience and future job prospects.  


About the Author

The Washington Center

The Washington Center is the largest and most established student internship program in Washington, D.C. Since our founding, we've helped more than 60,000 individuals from across the U.S. and around the globe expand their academic pursuits into rewarding jobs and careers. We use our scale and expertise to deliver solutions that open career pathways for learners, solve recruitment challenges for employers, while helping create greater access, equity, advancement and representation.

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