WIMS Away Experience: Summer Peet at the Seattle and King County Public Health Department
A job shadowing experience sparks newfound motivation
This past winter break, Occidental students participated in the Walk In My Shoes (Away) program, shadowing professionals at 29 sites in 6 states. Hosts provided participants with 2-3 days of career exposure to learn what they do, how they do it, and why. Students got a behind-the-scenes view of a profession and the opportunity to begin building a network within the field.
We’re showcasing a few students’ experiences with WIMS Away over the next few weeks. Summer Peet ’16 tells us how her time at a public health department inspired her to pursue her career goals.
My time spent at the Seattle and King County Public Health Department sharpened my understanding as to what a job in public health entails, and clarified my mind regarding my own career path. Through the kindness of my host, I was fortunate not only to spend time in the Injury and Violence Prevention unit where she worked, but to glimpse a view into other areas of the department. I was able sit in on meetings in the Epidemiology and Communicable Disease unit, to meet multiple inspiring MPH students and recent undergraduates, and even to sit in on the monthly Child Death Review meeting, which gathered professionals from multiple health fields in the Seattle area.
I observed my host, Annie, closely as she moved through her day. Annie is calm and composed, despite the chaotic days her unit faces now that the Washington legislature is in session. Between reviewing bills and answering a seemingly endless stream of emails, she showers me with a wealth of knowledge about her job and the public health department. In front of groups, Annie commands attention gracefully and confidently speaks to her work in gun safety and traffic injury prevention, then pulls me aside later to tell me even more about what I see occurring in meetings. It is clear to me that her ability to multitask, as well as communicate with her co-workers and remain updated on the steady stream of new information, is critical to her success at her job.
The work environment itself at Seattle Public Health is quiet, yet there is a constant buzz of communication between employees via phone, email, and over the top of cubicles. The public health department clearly values not only good connections within units, but between them as well. Those who work here have a strong work ethic, good people skills, and share their deep commitment to helping others, qualities that I strive to hone in myself. I found most enlivening the aspects of the job that involved direct connection with the people the public health department seeks to reach out to and have an impact on. While I did not experience any direct involvement with people outside of the office, I enjoyed meetings where specific cases were discussed and preventative measures brainstormed that could have been implemented to prevent a child death, for example. On the other hand I found the office lifestyle to be sort of draining, and was unaccustomed to being still and in one place for so long.
Assumptions I may have carried about a job in the public health department were challenged in particular at the Child Death Review. Whereas I imagined a complex process where recommendations were shot down and intricate proposals were produced, the meeting ran much like any that I have participated in during work for my job at school or even group projects for classes. It was in essence a large brainstorm where ideas were written down on poster paper, to later be typed up and combined with other meetings.
My time in the WIMS away program has reiterated for me that global health is the path I wish to follow. Through my profession I hope to work overseas, in post-conflict development and community healthcare systems. While I see much overlap between work at a city health department and global health, I know that I want to be more hands-on and in the field with my job, and directly interacting with individuals. After completing my WIMS away experience, I have intensified my effort into finding a global health organization with which I could potentially intern this summer. Speaking with professionals in the health department allowed me access to many thoughts and recommendations as to how to enter the field I most want to be a part of. I now entertain multiple ideas for what I will do upon graduating from Oxy. My desire to travel, to help others, and to work in the name of global health is stronger than ever; it is an itch I have to scratch.
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