Student gains global views on healthy aging

Tejaspreet (Tejas) Kaur, D.O.’23, completed an eight-week virtual internship with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during June and July 2020. She was selected to participate in this internship as part of the Department of Global Health’s Distinguished Global Health Internships program. These internships are selective research opportunities that enable students to collaborate with researchers to explore global health research topics at various national organizations.

Tejas’ internship was within the Healthy Life Course unit at PAHO. Although the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from going to Washington, DC, to complete the internship in person, the virtual experience was extremely valuable. Experiencing the internship in the middle of the pandemic brought opportunities to work on projects centered around COVID-19, in addition to in-depth learning about the upcoming frameworks and methodologies for comprehensive older adult health care.

“I appreciate having the opportunity to step back from the United States-centered outlook of medicine and public health to learn further about the approaches taken across the Americas and at the global level. Now, more than ever, we realize the importance of worldwide collaboration in health care disciplines,” Tejas commented.

Tejas Kaur, top center, participates in a Zoom meeting with her colleagues at PAHO during her summer internship.

The independent project she worked on was the ICOPE Intermediate Outline. ICOPE, or “integrated care for older people,” emerged from the World Health Organization’s 2016 world report on aging and health. It offers evidence-based guidance to health care providers on the appropriate approaches at the community level to detect and manage important declines in physical and mental capacities, and to deliver interventions in support of caregivers.

Tejas valued having the support and guidance from her mentors on what topics should be covered, while also having the autonomy to approach the training course in the way she believed it could be best presented and delivered. She also hopes to integrate the ICOPE Basic Course into the Des Moines University pre-geriatric course curriculum in order to contribute to current research being done by Dr. Enrique Vega, unit chief for the Healthy Life Course. 

Additionally, Tejas enjoyed assisting team members with tasks for which they needed an extra set of hands or a reviewer as it gave her the opportunity to learn more about their specific projects. Working with PAHO helped advance her knowledge of medical Spanish and introduced her to more legal and analytical Spanish terminology. Intermediate proficiency in Spanish is a requirement for the PAHO internship.

Tejas reflected on her experience, “Working with the Healthy Aging division at PAHO was an incredible experience in which I learned about the most upcoming research, literature and programs revolving around geriatric health care. Having the opportunity to learn from and work with some of the leading global experts in geriatrics was an amazing and unforgettable opportunity. Despite being in a different work environment due to COVID-19, I received interesting projects, personalized mentorship and abundant support from my team members. I helped create various educational materials on COVID-19 and had the opportunity to attend multiple WHO conferences with health care professionals from around the world!”

Are you a DMU student interested in the internship at PAHO or at the U.S. Global Change Research Program? The application for the Distinguished Global Health internships for summer 2021 will open on Nov. 6, 2020. For more information and how to apply, please visit the Department of Global Health’s Pulse Page. If you have any questions, please contact the department at

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