Mentor Testimonials

Mentor Testimonials

Jennifer Barkan
Resource Manager
U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants

I have been so pleased with the MPH interns who have assisted with health education and services for refugee clients at the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants (USCRI) in Albany. These mature students are very professional, intelligent, and showed real commitment to their field and to the goals of our agency. So far USCRI has hosted 2 MPH interns, and both have made contributions to our agency that will have impacts long after they are gone, including educational tools, research on regulations, and improved systems for referrals. We very much hope to continue to work with Public Health students from the University at Albany, and appreciate the work of the supporting staff and instructors.

Oscar Jimenez, MPH
Director for Community and Economic Integration

NYAPRS is simply thrilled to be host for MPH internships in collaboration with the SUNY Albany School of Public Health. This is the case because every one of our interns has made very significant contributions to our work and demonstrated an amazing commitment to innovative policy-making, program development, and social change.  NYAPRS is a statewide coalition of over one hundred community mental health provider agencies and thousands of people with psychiatric disabilities in New York State. We are dedicated to improving the services and social conditions for people with psychiatric disabilities by promoting their recovery, rehabilitation and rights, and creating opportunities for social and economic inclusion. In late 2008 NYAPRS decided to start an internship program for MPH students, recognizing that the transformation of the public mental health system requires an effective workforce not only with expertise in mental health and clinical issues, but also with thorough training on the social determinants of health, program design, policy and applied research, and general public health methods.

Since the spring of 2009 we have hosted five interns to work on projects such as a quantitative evaluation of NYAPRS’ peer support program; develop training and technical assistance tools for mental health providers; develop a policy research framework; conduct focus groups and interviews with state administrators, community providers, and individuals receiving mental health services; and help formulate policy and program recommendations to New York State agencies.  In our experience MPH students bring not only a unique set of skills but also a wealth of professional and/or volunteering experience in national and often international settings. Therefore, after a relatively short period of orientation we support our interns to take a meaningful role as research assistants, consultants, co-authors, and program coordinators, and not simply “support” our programs. Every time MPH students have stepped up to the challenge and the outcome has been a positive one for us and the intern. Thus, every new semester we look forward to working with our interns, sharing our experience and also with high hopes of what our agency will receive.

Hosting MHP interns has also been very meaningful to us because we hope that, by exposing public health students to the unique challenges of mental health programming, we are also contributing to developing a highly needed cadre of public mental health professionals.

David S. Pratt, MD, MPH
Schenectady Public Health Services

Although I am new to mentoring Public Health Interns I enjoy the role very much.  I find involving students in the life of the department engages them rapidly. Selecting topics of shared interest then allows the student to gain depth and a fuller experience in a specific area of public health. The mentor-mentee discussions may derive from the focus area or general local public health. Most recently mentees have helped us solve problems with vaccine shortage, Ob providers who were reluctant to give flu vaccine and estimating Ro, attack rates and vaccine coverage for various H1N1 vaccine formulations. Mentors need to assure adequate contact time and be certain to seek common interests with the interns.

Gary Malys, Assistant Director
Division of Community Services
NYS Office for the Aging

I’ve been a mentor for SPH students for past five or six years both through the NYS Department of Health (DOH) and currently as the Assistant Director for the Division of Community Services at the New York State Office for the Aging (OFA).  I’ve had students from various disciplines including epidemiology, community health, policy and management and others.  My role in part is to make sure that MPH students achieve the objectives outlined in their school’s internship requirements. I do that through a specific and structured project plan, weekly meetings with students and an open-door policy. As important I think is helping the students identify and articulate what things they want to learn and tailoring in as much as possible their internship to so that this happens.  Students become part of our organization while they are here -- they have an office, desk, phone, PC, etc. and of course work to perform as part of their internship. For every student I make sure that they leave the internship with a product in hand to assist them in their job search after graduation.

There are some challenges working with MPH students but they are probably similar to the challenges of working with a new employee. The typical ones include acculturation into the organization, feeling welcome in the organization and getting to know people.  Surprisingly, one of the greatest challenges is keeping the students busy most of the time. I’ve found that the MPH students turn-around work fast and at high quality levels. And, this is a great asset of the MPH students.

The rewards are varied and many. Organizationally, we benefit because we can conduct important public health work on behalf of older New Yorkers that might not occur otherwise or occur but at a later time.  My hope is that by exposing students to aging services and helping them to recognize the value of prevention for older adults that perhaps they may continue their work in service to older adults in some way. At a minimum, I think we have raised their awareness about public health and aging.  I’m gratified when students are enjoying their work projects here and when they feel satisfied about what they have learned and then want to pursue further one or more topics in elder health.

Overall, it’s a great experience working with SUNY MPH students and I’m honored to have them here at the New York State Office for the Aging.