As part of the Master of Public Health program, each student is required to complete a practicum and capstone experience. These practice-based learning opportunities allow the student to personalize their public health education, and explore unique career opportunities. This summer, we are featuring a four-part series about ColoradoSPH@CSU students who are completing their practicum.

For a town of only 150,000, Fort Collins is home to many federal agencies, including several that are leading organizations in public health. These agencies often accept ColoradoSPH@CSU students to complete their practicum and capstone – gaining invaluable access to federal policy and programming – all without leaving town.

Karam, a soon-to-be second-year Master of Public Health Student in the Epidemiology concentration, exemplifies this. He is completing his practicum this summer with the National Park Service in the Biological Resources Division/Wildlife Health Branch and Office of Public Health, a Division that is just down the street from the CSU campus. As a One Health Intern, Karam is responsible for developing One Health communication materials, such as posters and educational products, as well as data management and GIS mapping.

When searching for a practicum, Karam wanted something that helped to strengthen his epidemiologic background, but also allowed for creativity and collaboration. “I am a person that has to use both sides of my brain wherever I work,” he says. “NPS provided me the opportunity to use my analytical skills I have gained from my MPH coursework in tandem with my creativity and communication skills to produce scientific reports, creative education materials, advisory posters and signs.” Karam also praises his colleagues at the National Park Service. When asked about the most rewarding part of his practicum, he responded, “Being able to work in a workplace with individuals with such diverse backgrounds – from interpretation, to DVMs to EIS officers and biological technicians – I have been fortunate to meet and collaborate with a diverse group, which is what One Health is all about.”

Karam is also enthusiastic about how well his ColoradoSPH@CSU coursework prepared him for his responsibilities in his practicum: “All of the projects I have worked on have related to some sort of infectious disease or human or animal health hazard. For example I have utilized data cleaning and management skills I harnessed in my Statistical Software lab. In addition, my Field Epidemiology course presented us with many real-life scenarios that could happen in the work place –one being creating an effective advisory poster for Tularemia. Interestingly enough, I literally created the Tularemia Advisory sign now used by NPS! In fact I was so excited about this I had to let Dr. McCarthy (our field epidemiology instructor) know and she was delighted to hear about my experience.”

After his practicum, Karam, like many MPH students, will complete a capstone project with the same organization. His capstone with the National Park Service will analyze mouse trapping data collected at Yosemite National Park where Hantavirus has been found in rodents. He aims to create a framework for future trapping and data collection to ensure efficiency and efficacy of Hantavirus interventions.

In the fall, Karam will resume public health classes on campus, with a graduation date set for the spring of 2016. As he has progressed through his practicum, Karam has often considered how it will shape his future career aspirations.  “I wish to potentially work in a setting similar to the National Park Service where I can use both my creative and analytical skills,” he notes. “This practicum has provided me the medium to create useful and creative products for an organization I admire, while at the same time allowed me to hone in on my more analytical skills such as GIS for surveillance purposes. I have become obsessed with protecting biodiversity and ecosystem services and the interconnectivity of human, animal and environmental health. I would love to work in a place that allows me to explore those concepts.”

For more stories on students completing their practicum and capstone, please visit our news page.