Author Archives: Maggie Herman

A Great Summer at NORAPC

Hey All!

Can’t believe my summer interning at New Orleans Regions AIDS Planning Council (NORAPC) is coming to an end. This internship has been a really valuable learning experience. Below are some of my final reflections. However, first I’d like to thank the NORAPC staff, Planning Council and Community Partners for allowing me to learn from them this summer, and for their commitment to bettering their community. You all rock! Thanks for everything that you do!

Discuss specific tasks and accomplishments from this summer that support the learning goals and objectives you set at the beginning of the summer.

My internship began at a perfect starting point: preparation for NORAPC’s annual Priority Setting Session (PSS). In preparation for this important event, I assisted NORAPC’s Health Planner in creating guiding packets. These packets were filled with epidemiological data on the local demographic of the disease, the reported disease related needs of the affected community, and how well the services that are offered are meeting those needs. All this data provided me with a crash course on the impact of HIV/AIDS in the New Orleans area as well as the local infrastructure in place addressing the disease. This process also gave me a real-world look into how surveys and data are utilized to make health decisions.

Participating in the PSS enhanced my understanding of the population and their needs. Attending meetings and interacting with the council and community members who visited the NORAPC office deepened my appreciation and understanding of cultural competency and its importance in health care.

Next, I worked to prepare packets for the Resource and Allocation Setting Session (RASS). At this session council members decide the funding amounts for each priority area ranked at the PSS. From packet preparation and data analysis I learned so much about the various avenues of health funding and the effect the Affordable Care Act may have on the funding landscape. Additionally, at the RASS there were many representatives from the Office of Health Policy and AIDS Funding present. It was interesting to hear their insights. This opportunity gave me more understanding into the health policy and the planning process in New Orleans.

This summer I have had the opportunity to work towards all of my goals. However, I wouldn’t say any were “completed”, but that’s okay. HIV/AIDS is a complex and multifaceted issue that is continuously changing. My understanding is just the tip of the iceberg of this complicated issue. It is clear, however, that things are improving. More people are getting tested. More people are accessing care. More people are staying in care. And with the Affordable Care Act, more people are becoming insured. It is going to be a long road, but we are headed in the right direction. I look forward to continue learning about HIV/AIDS and contributing towards reaching an AIDS-Free Generation.

What advice would you give to a student interested in an internship at your host organization? In this industry/field?

Absolutely do it! I firmly believe that public health is best learned outside of the classroom. I have found that working with community first-hand and encountering the successes and challenges of public health directly is so much more powerful and educational than reading about it in a textbook. I would highly recommend all public health students to latch onto organizations they are interested in and learn about what the real world of public health is all about.

Additionally, for anyone interested in learning more about HIV/AIDS a NORAPC internship is the way to go. NORAPC brings together people from all facets of the disease response ranging from affected individuals to service providers to primary health care leaders. I have had the opportunity to learn about HIV/AIDS in New Orleans from so many different perspectives. It has given me great insight into all the players that are involved in addressing public health issues.

What have you learned about becoming a more effective problem solver/change agent/citizen?

One of the greatest lessons I will take away from this internship is that the community members I met possesses a wealth of knowledge. They know the problems in their community: that lack of affordable housing makes it difficult to stay in care, that the community needs more mental health services, and many more. Any interventions that fail to take advantage of these local troves of knowledge are ignoring a huge community asset. Nobody knows the problems of the community better than the members of the community. Health funders would be wise to trust local expertise more often when it comes to health interventions.

Thanks for reading!



Midpoint of my Internship at NORAPC

Hello again, Readers!

These summer months are really flying by, and it appears I am quickly approaching the mid-point of my internship. So here’s a brief (and hopefully informative/mildly entertaining) update.

In case you forgot…..

This summer I am interning at the New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council (NORAPC). This group is a federally mandated planning body that brings together members of the affected community with health officials to plan how millions of federal dollars are spent for HIV/AIDS care. (Really interested? Read in more detail from my last post by scrolling down the page).

What have you been up to this past month?

I have been busily working under NORAPC’s Health Planner, Erika Sugimori, to prepare seriously in-depth data packets and presentations for the Council’s annual priority setting session (PSS). These packets are no joke. They are over 100 pages long and contain graphs, charts, tables and explanations of 2013-14 HIV/AIDS related data that is hot off the press from the Mayor’s Office of Health Policy,the Center for Disease Control, the Kaiser Family Foundation and many more

As a public health student I find this extensive and up-to-date data exciting. In the internship world “data entry” has a pretty bad rap for being boring, uneducational and unglamorous. While there’s no debating the unglamorous part, I would have to disagree with the rest. By actually reading and analyzing the data I am entering I have learned so much about HIV and the infrastructure the greater New Orleans area has in place to tackle it. I’ve been able to see the vast improvements NOLA has made in HIV/AIDS care since Katrina but also the multitude of areas for continued growth. I am also lucky to have a supervisor who is both extremely knowledgeable and excited to answer my questions.

No offense…but there’s no way everyone likes reading this data as much as you, Maggie

You’re absolutely right! That has been one of the issues we have been working on, presenting the data in a way that is informative, reader-friendly and not overwhelming. The packets contain a lot of graphs and some data presented in tables and in visual forms.

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^^^Pages from PSS packet, data presented in a many different formats

It’s been really great practice looking at the data from this reader friendly perspective. In my opinion, one of data’s best uses is to inform policy and decisions. It is essential, however, that the data is presented in a logical and understandable manner to the general public and non-health experts in order for it to be most effective. These data translation skills I have been practicing are definitely skills I plan on utilizing in the future.

Well, did it work?!? Could other people understand/appreciate the data?!!

Yes! I really think it did. Last Saturday (7/19) was NORAPC’s annual Priority Setting Session. At this session, the council and any interested community members come together for a day-long event of discussing and prioritizing. The Ryan White legislation lists 30 categories relating to HIV/AIDS that can potentially be funded by the federal money. At this meeting, it is up to the council to vote, score and eventually prioritize these 30 categories in what they believe are the greatest needs facing the New Orleans HIV/AIDS community (sneak peak! In August the council gets to decide how much money will be allocated towards each priority, stay tuned!!).

You could just tell, the Council was jazzed about the data! They were asking question after questions, constantly flipping through their data packets, commenting on successes and failures. It was great to see! It was also exciting to hear members of the council combine or refute what the data was indicating with their lived experience as a member of the HIV community.


^^ Members of the Planning Council at the PSS

I worked with a group to record their voting on the issues. It was good to have the opportunity to add to their discussion by pointing out pertinent data points but it was also a great privilege to be able to hear and learn about the challenges and successes these individuals have had living with this disease. Many have overcome much adversity over the years, and I was truly inspired by their courage and commitment. I was honored to be able to learn from and interact with a group of individuals who were so dedicated and passionate about bettering the lives of their community.

photo (6)

^^ Me tracking the votes of the meeting

Final thoughts?

Though this process takes a lot of preparation and coordination, I firmly believe this process is one of the best ways of deciding how funds are allocated and spent. It seems rather obvious that you should ask the opinions of the individuals the funds will be spent on, but I feel it so rarely happens. By combining lived experience, with epidemiological data and bringing together individuals of the affected community with community organization leaders and health officials, you are about to paint the fullest and brightest picture of what is really needed for community improvement. Hopefully spending will be maximized, and the community will continue to be empowered to advocate and work towards bettering the lives of those with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans. This has been an exciting, challenging, and rewarding means of making informed health decisions.

That’s all for now! Thanks for reading,

Maggie Herman



First Week on the Job

Hello Readers!

My name is Maggie Herman and I am a rising senior at Tulane majoring in public health and minoring in political science and international development. I hail from Kansas City but have chosen to brave the New Orleans’ infamous heat and humidity for summer 2014. I’m interested in the effect social, political and economic conditions can have on individual and community health. One day I hope to be a leader in the promotion of healthy choices and changes in society.

What is your internship this summer, Maggie?

This summer I am interning with the New Orleans Regional AIDS Planning Council (NORAPC). NORAPC works to develop and maintain a comprehensive system of care for individuals living with HIV/AIDS in New Orleans Metropolitan area. NORAPC is a federally mandated public planning body working in collaboration with the Office of Health Policy and Office of Public Health and AIDS Funding under the City Health Department

Many are unaware (including myself pre-internship) that the New Orleans Metropolitan area is ranked FOURTH in AIDS case rates in 2011 among large metropolitan areas in the United States (p.s. Baton Rouge is number ONE). HIV/AIDS is a huge health issue in Louisiana and this council works to promote positive change.


NORAPC is funded by the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Modernization Act of 2009, which provides funding for various HIV/AIDS services. The planning council brings members of the affected community together with other key stakeholders to plan how to allocate funding as well as formulate recommendations of planning changes for deliveries of services determined the most needed y the community.

How often do citizens (regular people like you and me) get a chance to have direct input on how federal money, roughly 7 million dollars, is spent? I’m guessing not often, I know the government has never asked me for spending advice! The planning council is a really exciting means of decision-making. I am eager to learn more about its processes and challenges.

What are you internship responsibilities?

As of my first week I have worked to update informational materials with relevant HIV/AIDS related data for the members of the planning council. The various committees of the planning council and well as the whole general council will use there materials later in the summer to prioritize what they believe are the greatest issues facing the HIV/AIDS community in the New Orleans Metropolitan area. I’ve also had the opportunity to sit in on some really cool meetings: an introduction to an innovative HIV/AIDS informational website made specifically for New Orleans, formulation of an educational budgeting-how-to bingo game, and even a meeting with five documentary directors interested in HIV/AIDS in the South. Needless to say, things are really moving and shaking at NORAPC.

Over the course of the summer I will continue to learn how to collect, organize and analyze data. I will also have the opportunity to participate in NORAPC community planning meetings as well as learn about New Orleans’ HIV/AIDS local infrastructure to address the community’s HIV/AIDS needs.

photo (5)My desk^^

How did you find and secure your internship?

I found my internship through Tulane’s Center for Public Service’s website. Using the search tools, I narrowed down the organizations that related to my field of study and personal interests. Though I have already completed my second tier service learning through a CPS internship, CPS’s website is extremely comprehensive and a great tool for learning about organizations. I sent and email to NORAPC asking if there were any internship positions available, and much to my delight there was one! I attended one of the planning council’s monthly public meetings. After attending the meeting and learning a little more about the organization, I decided this internship would be an excellent opportunity.

What are my expectations for the summer?

I’m really interested in gaining a better understanding of how public health and the public health concepts that I have learned about in my undergraduate courses really work in the “real world”. I am looking forward to learning about the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS in New Orleans because they are extremely multifaceted and multidimensional. For starters HIV/AIDS issues are affected by politics, policy, social norms, culture, media, Hurricane Katrina, and much more. This issue is also constantly evolving (ex: the Affordable Care Act) meaning there are endless learning opportunities ahead of me!

Also, one last thing- because there’s always enough time for a condom pun!

photo (3) ^^ sticker from NORAPC front desk

That’s a wrap! 😉

Thanks for reading!,

Maggie Herman