Undergraduate Student Interns with the Birth Defects Registry

A baby's feet are held in an adult's hands.
Photo courtesy Omar Lopez / Unsplash

ALBANY, N.Y. (Sept. 15, 2023) -- Public health major Annie Jarvis recently interned with the Birth Defects Registry of the New York State Department of Health, where she spent 10 hours each week in the Corning Tower of the Empire State Plaza working on public health surveillance.

The Birth Defects Registry, founded after the Love Canal crisis, collects information on birth defects in New York, monitors trends and patterns, and provides data for education, research, and planning.

“The School of Public Health shared the posting for the internship, and I applied because the Birth Defects Registry has a huge impact on the prevention of birth defects, and I was eager to get involved,” says Jarvis.

As an intern, she was involved in numerous tasks related to public health surveillance and data processing, including checking reports of birth defects from hospitals across the state and updating records. She also helped to match new birth defect reports with existing reports if the child was already in the system.

“I was surprised by how many reports of birth defects we would receive each day,” says Jarvis. “The prevalence of children and families affected by birth defects is eye opening and I realized how important each and every person's position is at the Birth Defects Registry, including the intern positions.”

Jarvis learned in-depth about the codes assigned to specific birth defects, and assisted with efforts to better label defects by code.

“When hospitals submit reports, birth defects are paired with what’s called an ICD-10 code, or International Classification of Disease. Each code matches to a specific birth defect description,” Jarvis explains. “A part of my internship included adding British Pediatric Association codes to birth defect reports that come into our system, as this additional set of coding provides further specificity and can tell us more about the frequency of concurrent birth defects.”

Jarvis notes that her supervisors were always willing to take the time to educate and assist her, enabling her to comfortably take on new tasks and learn in-depth about processes in the New York State Health Commerce System.

“This internship affirmed my interest in maternal and child health, and I’m looking forward to continuing my education in order to positively impact the health of children and families,” Jarvis says.

Now going into her senior year, she is interested in continuing to learn about maternal and child health through her public health courses, and is looking into graduate school opportunities to further her knowledge, including UAlbany’s maternal and child health program.

“I have always been passionate about working in the health care field and I love that public health focuses on improving the wellbeing of entire communities. I'm particularly interested in analyzing health inequities and improving access to health care, which UAlbany's public health program has allowed me to study. Paired with my internship experience at the Birth Defects Registry, I feel confident to enter the public health workforce ready to make a difference.”