This summer, I had the unique opportunity of interning for 8 weeks at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. The World Health Organization (WHO) is a specialized agency of the United Nations that focuses specifically on international public health. I worked with the Human-Animal Interface (HAI) team in the Department of Food Safety and Zoonoses, assisting mainly with their work on influenza. Over the summer, I helped out with the day-to-day operations of the team, such as keeping track of global animal influenza outbreaks, creating a literature database for recently published H7N9 influenza papers, and various other small projects on avian influenza, MERS coronavirus, and salmonella. Because I hope to work for a governmental or international organization as a veterinary public health official in the future, a summer gaining firsthand experience with zoonotic disease monitoring and public health policy at a global level was a great learning experience. Both of my supervisors over the summer, Dr. Aspen Hammond and Dr. Liz Mumford, were amazing mentors who were always willing to answer my questions about any topic and provide advice about working in veterinary public health.
Being in Geneva itself was also a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Because Geneva is home to the United Nations, Red Cross, and a variety of different NGOs and organizations, the city’s population is extremely international. It’s not often that you can say that you met someone from literally every continent (except Antarctica) in the course of a week! I stayed at a student hostel during my 8-week internship, which was a great experience as I got to meet people from all over the world while simply making dinner in the common kitchen or watching TV. I also had a great time getting to know my fellow interns at the WHO – a combination of students from law, medical, pharmacy, and public health programs. Geneva is right on the French border, and so I had the opportunity to travel every weekend with my new friends to various cities in Switzerland and France.
All in all, I had a truly amazing summer that allowed me to enhance my knowledge of what it means to be a public health veterinarian as well as experience life in an incredible international city. It was an exciting first step towards a career in public health and I am very grateful to have had the experience. Thank you, International Programs, for my summer at the WHO!