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DSPH Students Earn Hands-On Experience on Path to Public Health Profession

Drexel University Bridge

11/2/2017 12:38:28 PM

As a first-year student in the MPH program, public health is a new field for Louisa Boison.

Although she’d interned at other organizations, Boison's six months working with the Division of Chronic Disease Prevention of Philadelphia Department of Public Health initiative “Get Healthy Philly” was her first experience working as a public health professional. Her hands-on experience was earned through the first-year practicum, with funding support from the Urban Health Collaborative.

Boison came to the Dornsife School of Public Health right after completing her undergraduate degree. “I had little working experience,” she said. “Working at Get Health Philly provided me with real-world experience.”

The practicum allows first-year students to develop skills in health concepts and apply what they learn in the classroom to real-world situations. The 120-hours of supervised, hands-on experience is a requirement for all MPH students at the Dornsife School of Public Health. This is the second year that the Urban Health Collaborative has offered funding support for practicums.

Along with Boison, the Urban Health Collaborative provided funding for three other DSPH students: Victoria “Tori” Kontor, Maitri Shah and Kevin Smith.

Smith, who worked at Mercy Hospital in West Philadelphia, was interested in funding from the Urban Health Collaborative because of the goals of his project and the UHC. “The data gathered from my project seeks to find trends within a hospital in an urban and medically-underserved area,” said Smith. “Being that the aim of the Urban Health Collaborative is to improve health in cities through scientific knowledge, I feel that my practicum experience aligns closely with these goals.”

The students’ projects ranged from creating a profile of the health and wellness of Philadelphia girls to motivate policy change, to co-locating dental care within primary care clinics for youth. The practicums also focused on assessing physical activity in youth, deterring Philadelphians from smoking, and understanding and controlling for hospital infections.

Tori Kontor worked with the Women’s Law Project, while Maitri Shah worked with the Center for the Urban Child and the Center for Children and Youth with Special Health Care Needs at St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

Kontor focused her work on the intersection of urban health and women and girls’ health. She was tapped to create a snapshot profile of the health and wellness of the current girl population in Philadelphia. Her experience working with the Women’s Law Project stirred a passion for data collection, as she realized there were many “holes” in publicly available data across populations. “LGBTQ data in Philadelphia was difficult to get a hold of in the areas I was searching for,” Kontor said. “So was homeless youth data, among other underserved and overlooked populations.”

“Having an emotional drive was a good thing to have when working on this project,” she said. “Having a personal component is always effective when it comes to advocacy.”

Each of the students remarked on how the practicums impacted their career outlook, and were grateful for the funding opportunity from the UHC.

Shah, who plans to apply to dental school after graduation, said the practicum, coupled with the knowledge she’s gained in the classroom, will help her to be a better healthcare provider in the future.

“The project will help me to learn about public health in practice,” Shah said.

“Knowing the challenges faced by [patients across socioeconomic groups] and how to devise public health interventions to take care of such disadvantaged populations will promote health and work to reduce health inequalities.”

Each student will present their work as part of the Urban Health Collaborative’s Brown Bag Series. To learn more about the Series and to see the upcoming speakers, visit: