Monthly Archives: July 2014

End of my Summer Internship at Fit NOLA



Hey everyone,

This is the last week of my summer internship with Fit NOLA of the New Orleans Health Department. While it’s the end of my summer with Fit NOLA, I will continue interning with the organization during the Fall semester, just with limited hours. I’ve learned a ton about the way public health progress actually occurs, especially in a unique city like New Orleans. Most of this is due to my supervisor treating me as an (almost) equal, and allowing me to tag along to any meeting she went to, or listen and participate in any conference call she scheduled. My internship also allowed me a good amount of freedom, in which I got to pursue topics of my own interest in relation to Fit NOLA, so I could always find something to do and contribute to, even when the workload for the day was light.

I would say that I definitely accomplished my four objectives. My first objective was to “acquire specific knowledge about public health organizations and how they function in New Orleans, including governmental organizations (like the health department) and non-profit organizations. “ I gained this understanding by attending so many meetings with different organizations, since Fit NOLA is actually a partnership/collaborative effort of many health-oriented organizations in New Orleans. I was exposed to many types of businesses organizations and began to understand the differences in interactions with each of them. For example, the health department runs on a very bureaucratic level (meaning it takes a while to get anything approved, and many levels of people must approve everything before a final decision can be made). However, smaller non-profits do not operate in this way, making it easier to make quick changes by collaborating with them.

My second objective was “to acquire the professional skills, including etiquette and interpersonal skills, needed to work effectively in a professional, governmental work environment”. Through this internship, I definitely began to understand the way the hierarchy works in the health department. Through this understanding, I was able to act appropriately and behave professionally, but I was also able to have less formal relationships with co-workers and my supervisor.

For my third learning objective I wanted to “learn more information about how to establish public health campaigns among certain populations”. Because my supervisor allowed me to pursue some of my own interests as part of my internship, I helped create a breast feeding and early childhood health campaign that Fit NOLA will use to apply for funding through a public health initiative. I learned about the challenges in creating a campaign that will be both successful and accepted among the general population, especially when it comes to more controversial topics, like breastfeeding.

Part of my social media breastfeeding campaign:

fast food

My final learning objective was to “cultivate good relationships with the public health department’s partners, so as to create connections and learning opportunities to have available after I graduate.” I was definitely able to complete this learning objective, considering that Fit NOLA is a collective impact model that requires the participation and communication with all of its partners. I was required to constantly communicate and meet with these partners, which allowed me to form relationships outside of the staff of Fit NOLA and the health department.

My internship with Fit NOLA provided me with a new perspective on working the public health field in the government sector. I know that my responsibilities will continue to grow as Fit NOLA grows, and I am excited to see what comes next!

Click here to see the newsletter that I designed:


Until next time,

Anna Gunod

Post #2

(Was originally published on July 5th, but was deleted)

It’s been almost a full month at my internship, and my goals are now clearly defined and I’m learning a lot. My end goal is to create a searchable map feature to be dispersed over the internet. The map will pinpoint places to access food – including food banks, pantries, community gardens etc. My hope is that this tool will alleviate some of the stress of finding the next meal. There is currently no digital database through which people can find this sort of information, and with the irregular hours of opening of many of these access areas, it can be difficult for people to find food when they are most in need.

So far I have familiarized myself with a few mapping softwares, including Open Street Map and ArcGIS, to determine which will suit the project best. I’m learning a skill that I believe will be extremely useful in my future education and career. Mapping and knowledge of geographic software is a desirable skill in the urban planning and environmental sector. I’m thankful that I get to dedicate my summer to learning this valuable skill!

I feel good about the work that I am doing this summer, as I hope that it will serve indefinitely as a beneficial resource for those in need. I’m also learning a lot about urbanization and sustainable development through suggested articles and individual research on the topics. I’m able to educate myself through managing the DevSI social media pages and posting(reading) interesting articles.

Overall everything is going swimmingly, and I’m happy to have a clear, achievable goal for the end of the summer.

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.

Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 7.47.12 PM

^^^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



Midpoint at IPNO

I can’t believe that I am already more than halfway through my internship at IPNO! This summer has progressed very quickly. I have already met most of my defined learning goals that I designed before my internship began. Here are my learning objectives:

1. By the end of my internship, I will discuss the experience of the female lawyers and law students in their education and careers to learn how to overcome gender barriers in my future legal path.

2. By the midpoint of my internship, I will speak with two wrongly convicted prisoners to discover how they view their time behind bars and learn how to empathize with clients.

3. Throughout the internship, I will observe the operations and environment of a nonprofit law office in order to learn how such an office functions and identify if I would be comfortable pursuing a career in nonprofit law.

4. By the end of my internship, I will apply the academic concepts of criminology and the criminal justice system to my duties at Innocence Project New Orleans (IPNO). I will use my firsthand knowledge of the criminal justice system to improve my current information about the prison system in the United States.

5. By the midpoint of my internship, I will learn how to do specific legal research and investigate cases so that I can be a true asset to IPNO. I will apply these research skills to my academic work and future jobs.

Through my interactions with other interns, I have gained a lot of knowledge about law school and the obstacles that women face in order to break into the field. The legal interns have also helped me to understand the process of pursuing a career in public interest law. I have spoken with three wrongfully convicted prisoners so far throughout the summer. Hearing about their experiences and seeing their positive outlook despite horrible circumstances has been truly inspirational. Exposure to the atmosphere in a nonprofit law office has enabled me to reflect on my preferences in an office setting. I definitely have developed a much greater understanding of the system of incarceration in the United States through this internship. It is very different to learn about the criminal justice system in a criminology class and then see the results of the prison-industrial complex in letters from inmates.

I am monitoring my own growth by the ease of completing new tasks and my increasing familiarity with legal procedures and terminology. I am most proud of my ability to handle a large number of cases at one time – it can be confusing to remain knowledgeable about many different peoples’ situations at the same time. Through this internship, I am building writing and research skills that will aid me not only with papers in class, but also in my legal career.

where I park my bike behind the office

where I park my bike behind the office

two of my fellow interns - Ashley and Matt

two of my fellow interns – Ashley and Matt


Second Post

Although we have not yet worked on writing lab reports , for they are not written until the end of a given project(which could take years), I have been training and practicing to interpret my findings each day. This entails both an understanding of the underlying principles behind the experimental procedures I am performing, and more importantly, development of my ability to troubleshoot. Troubleshooting is a vital skill in the world of lab science. It involves encountering an error of some sort, and knowing the assortment of possible reasons that could have caused my data to show results in contention with my hypothesis. At which point the next step is to compile a list of potential reasons for this discrepancy.

The first set of possibilities might require looking at possible problems with each individual step in the procedure. It is essential to alter as few steps as possible per each trial of the procedure. This helps to specify exactly what change causes the resulting effect. One such instance might include changing the ratio of a reagent used. During immunohistochemistry, for example, the brain sections I was staining for the presence of tyrosine hydroxylase(TH) and vesicular glutamate transporter 2(vglut2) were demonstrating an oversaturation of magenta (the color which was supposed to indicate the presence of vglut2), so that this color almost entirely masked all others that should have been seen. I resolved this problem by lowering the ratio of the primary antibody raised against vglut2 from 1:400 to 1:500, which caused less non specific staining.

If my problem had not been solved, then I would have needed to take note of such, and either revert my change in the protocol to be used for future attempts at the procedure(if it had made the problem worse) or keep it in the protocol(if it improved the result slightly) and add another change to a different part of the procedure to further improve my results. If no changes successfully result in the product I need, then it may become time to change my hypothesis. This is the scientific process, essentially educated trial and error until results are seen.

I have also found that utilizing a concept that I picked up in a philosophy class at Tulane will greatly assist me in coming up with my own research plans in the future. A model described to me, known as top-down thinking, calls for starting with the broadest, most general parts of an idea and narrowing your plan down at each level of thought, wherein the uppermost three tiers in the proposed model should be the most expansive in scope, and therefore the most well thought out. If one of these upper level parts of the hypothesis are wrong, it could mean starting my project from scratch with a completely new idea. Whereas a mistake in the lower tiers is not quite so devastating, and will require only minor changes to minute details of the procedure. This can be done relatively easily, without an overwhelmingly negative effect on the project as a whole.

At this point in my internship, I am most proud of the level of independence that I have attained while working in the lab. I have begun to feel comfortable enough with various procedures to the point where I make small changes to various aspects of the protocol in order to optimize potential results. Now, on most days, my mentor does not need to instruct me on what to do or on how to do it(but is of course still always available to answer any questions I might have). By giving me a broad overall goal to achieve, my mentor has allowed me to develop and implement my own style of achieving it. Although I have been getting familiar with a few different procedures and techniques, it has become apparent that it is very significant to understand how any specific task, that I or another lab member performs, relates to the larger picture of the project as a whole. Learning about the interconnections of the many aspects of the project, each performed by a different member of the lab, allows me to better understand the methods of a professional researcher in this field so as to maximize potential quality of the results while emphasizing their relevancy to the scientific community and to society as a whole.

I have also begun practicing the skill of finding and utilizing the results of previously published data and papers. This is integral for formulating research plans, as it allows the experimenter to build upon the findings of other scientists, both contemporaries who research similar areas and more historic scientists whose works serve as the foundation for modern science.

Another skill I have been developing is proper use of the confocal microscope. Not the ordinary piece of equipment that can be found in any lab or classroom, the laser scanning confocal microscope is a powerful machine that allows the up-close viewing of fluorescently labeled mouse brain sections. It produces such a highly magnified view that the user can actually see each individual neuron on the brain slice and what type of neurotransmitter that cell fires. This is where the staining from immunohistochemistry comes into play. Having sectioned a mouse brain on a vibratome into slices 3 microns thick, I would then perform their staining using immunohistochemistry (a procedure that takes advantage of the biologically natural system of antibodies to allow selective labeling). Once having stained for the selected targets (in my case: TH and VGLUT2 in the VTA), I take the brain slice, which I have since mounted in a glass slide, and analyze it under the confocal microscope. I have included a picture of a brain slice that I personally sectioned, stained, and analyzed under the microscope.

In the pictures: red indicates tyrosine hydroxylase(TH) which signifies a dopaminergic neuron, blue is indicative of DAPI which binds to all cellular nuclei (so that a blue dot surrounded by red proves that there is a neuron producing dopamine and that the red is not just free floating dopamine), the magenta highlights vesicular glutamate transporter 2(VGLUT2) which signifies the presence of glutamate(wherein the blue dot within magenta indicates a glutamate projecting neuron)

VTA containing coronal section of mouse brain- tile

VTA tile zoomed in- TH onlyVTA tile zoomed in

Six Weeks Down: Two To Go!


As the end of my summer internship experience at The Family Institute quickly approaches, I’m overcome with the realization that time passes so quickly, and I must stop and enjoy each remaining bit of my time remaining in Evanston before this incredible opportunity becomes only a memory. Since my last post in which I outlined my initial impressions of The Family Institute and my first tasks, I have become incredibly close with my fellow interns, worked continuously on an independent literature review research project, and made progress in the Depression, Anxiety, and Couples project to which I’m assigned. I have also heard from numerous professionals currently working in psychology fields, allowing me to develop into a more knowledgeable and confident individual in my personal career aspirations. Specifically, I have become more certain that I see myself being a practicing clinician—helping others with the difficulties of psychopathology through therapy sessions, while also conducting corresponding psychological research on the side when I see fit. Finally, I have begun formulating an independent research project under the supervision of my mentor, Dr. Lynne Knobloch-Fedders, which I hope will allow me to continue work and a connection between The Family Institute and myself even after my departure in August.

My lab work over the past several weeks as been comprised mainly of statistical analysis of the interpersonal relationships between a subset of couples who were recruited for the Depression, Anxiety, and Couples Project. The other interns and myself work with a specific sample of couples with which on partner was diagnosed with PTSD from recent wartime experience. I have learned how to compute several statistical values such as frequency values and inter-rater reliability statistics, which will all be used to create a working model of the communication patterns between partners from this population of “PTSD couples”. We hope that by garnering a greater understanding of how these partners communicate with one another (i.e. how particular forms of communication are either detrimental or beneficial to the functioning relationship), psychologists may develop better models for intervention and improving lifetime outcomes in the face of adversity. From my experience, I feel much more knowledgeable about the functioning of the software used for psychological research (i.e. excel and SPSS statistical software), and better able to understand numerical information generated from these systems.

Outside of this lab work, each intern has been conducting research and composing a literature review on a related topic to PTSD or the psychology of related wartime topics. Personally, my literature review concerns the impacts of parental war deployment on child outcomes. While the findings are disheartening, Dr. Knobloch-Fedders hopes that future research projects my be formulated from our findings and discovery of current gaps in the literature.

While I know I have benefited intellectually from the work I have conducted, I am also incredibly grateful for the personal connections The Family Institute has allowed me to foster. While working with the other students each day in close quarters, we have become comfortable with one another, and a large aspect of going to work each day is having the ability to converse and relate to one another. Earlier in July, our group was able to venture into downtown to Chicago, to see The Family Institute’s Millennium Park location, but also enjoy each other’s company in a unique setting. I left that particular day feeling fortunate for the new friendships I have been able to create, and I know we will remain in touch with one another as we continue on which our own pursuits. It’s comforting to know we each have a group of supporters and connections within our chosen field!

I will be sure to write again after I have completed my internship, and I also hope to post pictures soon! Thanks for reading!


Nature of the Job

At about the half way point now I’m checking in with my first post. Better late than never I suppose. I learned quickly that my internship is a lot of what you make it. With about ten other students holding the same position as me, I’ve seen about ten different approaches. This speaks to the flexibility and freedom of the job, a work environment that I appreciate. My level of supervision is low, but the expectations for my work are high. I’m being evaluated by my bosses based on what I produce for them in terms of quality and speed. They aren’t looking on to me and judging me based on how busy I look, which is something I can’t stand so I consider my self very fortunate because I did not realize the internship would be like that. I could have inferred however, because I did know that a lot of my work would be outside of the office. I’ve been doing things such as tracking down witnesses, interviewing them, searching for public and private surveillance footage, attaining said surveillance footage, taking pictures etc. (I’m working at a criminal defense firm). This is something that all the interns are doing but there is still a lot of room to make it your own like I said. Some of the interns want to complete as many investigations as possible and will go to as many lawyers as they can asking for work, but the consequence of that is they don’t become all that in depth with each case, especially from a legal angle. Doing an investigation is one thing, but making a legal decision about what to do with the information is what separates lawyers from investigators. Something I have enjoyed is returning to the office from an investigation, telling the lawyer what he/she needs to know, and then discussing what to do with that information, how we will use it to help the client. For example, I went on an investigation and discovered some information about the past of a complaining witness (i.e. the enemy of our client). I watched the lawyer take the information I’d given about her boyfriend and her criminal record and do some research to confirm the extent of their records. He them explained to me how he would use this to discredit her in court. Some interns in my position would not have taken part in that and would have instead completed another investigation. that’s a strategy that works well for some of them who plan to work as an investigator before law school. I, however, am more interested in using investigations to learn how to be a lawyer. I’ve heard on that job that in order to instruct your investigators you need to be able to do investigations yourself, so you can put yourself in others’ shoes. So that’s the advantage that I see. More to come soon; in my next post I’ll share some specific anecdotes about some of my Manhattan investigations.

I’m checking in a little bit late for my internship’s midpoint. Everything moves so fast on a campaign and you really have to jump in with both feet, so it was difficult to determine when to best write this post.

My learning goals have been progressing really well. All of the field organizers are really great and I’ve learned a lot about the diverse paths that led them to campaign work. They’re all recent graduates so they’re great to turn to for advice on college. My telephone skills have improved dramatically because I make around 150 phone calls every day. I’ve learned to deal with almost any situation. I’ve also learned a lot about Senator Warner’s views and stances. This past Saturday at the Hanover Tomato Festival, I had the opportunity to interact with the (largely Republican) constituency and there were many lively discussions between the attendees and the Hanover Democratic Committee. I’ve gained a lot of experience with events, most importantly the Richmond field office opening for the campaign. Senator Warner and Senator Tim Kaine were there as well as other important Virginia Democrats. It was exciting to see the office go from drab and empty to being filled with people and enthusiasm.

The office filling up!

The office filling up!

It's not an office opening without snacks!

It’s not an office opening without snacks!

One way I was able to see my growth on the campaign was the day my supervisor went out of town and he trusted me to help guide a high school age intern through canvassing and data entry. Another proud moment was when he said the interns had to slow down on our calls because we were making the full time employees look bad.

This internship is a really exciting opportunity for many different reasons. I’m definitely building my people skills and learning a lot about campaigning. Another fun aspect is the networking! I’ve been able to meet many important Virginia politicians and their staff.

Some of the field staff with Richmond congressman Bobby Scott

Some of the field staff with Richmond congressman Bobby Scott

I’m sad that my internship is winding down, but I’m looking forward to seeing how the last part progresses.

Halfway: Informed and Immersed

My (messy) desk. Also note the awesome decorations– they're all over the office.

My (messy) desk. Also note the awesome decorations– they’re all over the office.

Hi everyone! I’m about half way through my experience with AmeriCares and I am really starting to understand what the organization is all about. A big part of the internship is a crash course in work AmeriCares has done, the work they are doing, and the work they plan to do. People from each department have come in to give the interns an overview of their respective work, which is helpful as there is not always interaction between departments. I mainly deal with Institutional Relations so it is interesting for me to hear about the field programs we do in Medical Outreach or the process for partnering with a pharmaceutical company in Corporate Relations.

It is a typical for a company to give a 101 course to interns, but at AmeriCares all the employees, even ones you would never work with, make an effort to reach out to you. In addition to a mentor program, and professional development advisors, there are people at the organization who will just shoot you an email to talk because they heard you are going abroad to the same place they did.

AmeriCares encourages the interns and students to explore the work that it is doing. This week I wrote a few acknowledgement letters to donors who have contributed to our relief efforts across the globe. I consider myself to be pretty informed and up to date, so I was confused to be researching events that I had never even knew about, like volcanic eruptions in Indonesia in March that displaced tens of thousands or the humanitarian aid currently being sent to Detroit because water has been cut off from half the city.

In my exploration of AmeriCares projects I became particularly interested in maternal and child health after reading the work of a woman who works in AmeriCares Middle East and Africa partnerships, Elikem Archer. A part of the internship is to write a blog post that is shared on AmeriCares Global Health Blog, so I saw this as the perfect opportunity to talk with Elikem personally.

The blog post is about AmeriCares One Child One World program, which is a nutritional education and assistance program in Ghana and the post also delves into maternal and child health issues across Africa. If anyone is interested in reading more, click here! Feel free to like or share it on Facebook and Twitter. They are offering the intern who gets the most shares a prize at the end of the internship.

I am excited to keep finding things to love about AmeriCares and the great people who work there.

The clock is ticking

I have 2 weeks left until my program at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center ends, which is when I will present a poster highlighting my work at the annual Capstone Symposium. There will be 100 students presenting their work at this competition. As far as my experience here is concerned, I have since changed projects because my previous experiment did not pan out. As mentioned in my previous post, I had tried to inject fatty tissue loaded with IL-10 (chemical messenger) into wounds to induce wound healing and prevent scar formation. While I had done a literature search on the subject and followed similar protocols to those online, I had difficulties isolating specific components of the fat. Now, I am working on a project where I basically load IL-10 into a gel that was previously developed by the lab, which can be applied topically to wounds. I bought mice from a supplier, created 3 wounds on the back of the mice (located on either side of the spine and behind the head), and then injected the gel into one wound (the other two were used as a controls). After 7 days, I humanely euthanized the mice following standard protocol and collected the wounds. I am currently in the process of staining the samples, and when I finish this and have analyzed the data I will post my findings on here. I also realized I haven’t posted any photos, so I am going to fix that now.

This is my work desk:

My desk

My desk

This is my lab space:


This is one of the many surgery rooms in the veterinary facility:


Lastly, this is a picture of the lab:



Overall, it has been an exciting, fast-paced summer, and I look forward to sharing my findings with the rest of my peers and the scientific community.