Center for Health and Wellbeing

Center for Health and Wellbeing Hosts Summer Internship Research Symposium

Sep 30, 2014
Eric Wilkens
Woodrow Wilson School
Eighty-six Princeton University students, including 13 students in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, shared the findings of their research projects and summer internships during a Sept. 12 symposium. 
The event was sponsored by the Wilson School’s Center for Health and Wellbeing (CHW). It allowed undergraduate and graduate students who conducted research projects and participated in summer internships through CHW’s global health and U.S. health policy programs to share the highlights of their experiences through poster, multimedia and panel presentations. 

Janet Currie, the Henry Putnam Professor of Economics and Public Affairs at the Wilson School and director of CHW, said the group of students was talented and passionate about public health issues.
“Our students worked in 20 countries and 12 U.S. cities. They addressed topics ranging from the health care needs of the homeless in Boston to hand, foot and mouth disease in China to childbirth outcomes in rural South Africa to cost-reduction policies for New Jersey hospitals,” said Currie, who is also the chair of the University’s department of economics. “CHW is proud of the work on display.” 
Also in attendance was Shirley Tilghman, president emerita of Princeton and professor of molecular biology and public affairs at the Wilson School who gave the keynote address titled, “The Best of Times: the Worst of Times: The U.S. Biomedical Enterprise.” Among the topics she discussed were the decreased funding within the biomedical field, the increasing number of biomedical Ph.Ds. and the rampant competition among young scholars. Drawing on her recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, Tilghman presented several ideas that could be used to “right the ship.
These included increasing transparency in graduate programs by providing accurate career outcomes for prospective graduate students, diversifying training as the nature of the jobs in biomedical sciences is changing, thinking about ways to reduce the number of entrants into biomedical Ph.D. programs and changing the structure of the research labs by incorporating more non-academic staff members. 
Students’ work was examined by judges from the Wilson School including Purcell Carson, documentary production specialist at the School; Tom Vogl, assistant professor of economics and international affairs; Jessica Metcalf, assistant professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and public affairs; and several Ph.D. candidates and postdoctoral research associates from CHW and the Wilson School’s Office of Population Research. In addition, Adel Mahmoud, senior policy analyst and lecturer with the rank of professor at the Wilson School, moderated a student panel. 
Brianna Leahy ’15 interned with the Jabulani Rural Health Foundation and Zithulele Hospital in South Africa, an organization run by Karl le Roux, a former Wilson School visiting lecturer and CHW visiting scholar. The focus of her research was early infant diagnoses of HIV/AIDS. She said going on a home visit to conduct research was particularly memorable. 
“We visited two mothers who were participating in a study about HIV/AIDs and collected data about them and their children,” Leahy said. “That experience really hit home because it brought my research to reality and a face to an issue I had been working on all summer.”
Melody Qiu '16 interned with Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia. This video was one of many multimedia presentations on display at the symposium.
Another student, Tiana Woolridge ’15, interned at the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues in Washington, D.C. The commission is comprised of the nation’s leaders in medicine, science, ethics, religion, law and engineering and advises the president on bioethical issues arising from advances in biomedicine and other related areas. In her multimedia slideshow, Woolridge highlighted details about the commission and her responsibilities this past summer which included assisting in the production of the commission’s upcoming report that focuses on the ethical issues associated to neuroscience research and writing for the commission blog. 
Following the student presentations were an alumni career panel and discussion, networking reception and award announcements. The best multimedia presentation was awarded to Priyanka Goyal ’16, Sophie Harkins ’15 and Manraj Singh ’16 for their video documenting their internship with the Stanford India Health Research Institute in India. The best poster presentation was awarded to Sunny Patel ’15 for his independent research at Guru Angad Dev Veterinary and Animal Sciences University in Punjab, India. The best oral presentation was awarded to Charlie Fortin ’15 for his discussion on “Air Pollution and Health Maintenance in Beijing,” and the winner of the “Faces of Global Health” photo contest was Jonathan Liebman ’17. 
The alumni panel featured Byron Austin ’07, program manager for corporate contributions for Johnson & Johnson; Galen Benshoof, MPA ’14, senior research specialist for the State Health Reform Assistance Network; Marine Buissonnière, MPP ’08, director of the Open Society Public Health Program; Rachel Cohen, MPP ’10, regional executive director for Drugs for Neglected Diseases (DNDi); Jeff Sturchio ‘73, president and CEO of Rabin Martin; Matthew Trujillo, Ph.D. ’13, research associate at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation; and Baligh Yehia, M.D., MPP ’12, MSHP, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and senior adviser to the secretary at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.