DMU students selected for summer 2021 Distinguished Global Health Internships

The DMU Department of Global Health’s Distinguished Global Health Internships are highly selective research opportunities that enable students to explore global health research topics at various organizations. They enable students to work with researchers on projects such as conducting systematic reviews to create evidence-based educational materials for worldwide distribution.

The internships will take place virtually this summer, for the second year in a row, due to the pandemic.

Alexandra Arnold, D.P.M.’24, will complete an internship with the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP). She holds master of health sciences and master of public health degrees, both from West Virginia University. Her public health background is in health policy, leadership and management. A podiatric medical student, she is thrilled to combine her love of medicine and public health for the USGCRP internship.

Alexandra Arnold

“Public health has always held a special place in my heart because it is the intersection in preventive medicine the public needs before they would need to see a physician for their ailments,” she explains. “The policies that are in place from a public health standpoint will one day affect my ability to care for my patients.”

Alexandra has always had an interest in how human actions affect the climate and how this would, in turn, affect a person’s health. Her previous experience includes an internship with the West Virginia Helping Appalachian Parents and Infants (HAPI) project. “Appalachia reflects the importance of health and wellness because it relies heavily on coal for revenue and heat in some homes. The importance of the WV HAPI project is to reduce infant mortality and to provide overall increases in health to pregnant women and enhance the ‘right from the start’ services for currently enrolled families,” she says.

The USGCRP internship will allow her to interact with various policy-making groups in Washington, DC, that influence decisions on climate. Additionally, she will sit in on different group meetings and gain exposure to the policy side of health. “Knowing that I will play even a small role in this bigger organization that would one day affect the future generations is exciting and inspiring to me,” she says.

Clarissa “Claire” Dahm, D.O.’24, will complete an internship with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). Claire holds undergraduate degrees in biology and Spanish from Augustana University in Sioux Falls, SD. During college, she traveled to Costa Rica with members of the World Clinic at Sanford Hospitals to provide translation services and to help implement an electronic medical record system. “During the trip, I was able to see firsthand how our health care systems are different and learned about global health and its impact on patient outcomes,” she explains.

Claire Dahm

An osteopathic medical student, Claire became interested in aging studies while working in a group home in Sioux Falls and witnessing how the care of a patient can change throughout the course of a lifetime. A proficient Spanish speaker, she looks forward to combining her Spanish language skills, interest in global health and Latin American cultures, and her passion for working with aging populations during her internship with the Healthy Life Course unit of PAHO.

“My past experiences have revealed disparities that face both Latin American and aging populations within health care systems,” she says. “It is imperative to recognize barriers regarding access to adequate care and to work toward eliciting change.” 

During her PAHO internship this summer, Claire hopes to learn more about aging populations within Latin America in order to effectively serve and advocate for these communities. She also wants to learn more about what she can do to make a positive impact in the global health realm. She looks forward to embracing PAHO’s goals and eventually integrating these practices into her future career as a physician.

Cole Wesselman, D.O.’23, M.H.A.’23, will complete an internship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). He first became interested in public health as an undergraduate student at Iowa State University (where he earned a bachelor of science degree in biology) while searching for a topic for his honors capstone project. 

“I am a believer that exercise is medicine, and my own journey with fitness significantly improved my abilities to succeed in undergrad by overcoming the depression spurred by the pressures of academic achievement,” he says. This personal experience inspired him to complete a capstone project titled “Identifying Bias within Research on Exercise as Antidepressant Treatment.”

Cole Wesselman

“We identified several concrete indications of efforts to suppress the antidepressant effects of exercise and thus devalue the evidence in support of the use of exercise as antidepressant treatment in multiple meta-analysis in flagship medical journals,” he elaborates. “Through my empiric research I discovered prescribing exercise is equally, if not more efficacious, in treating depression than current approved antidepressant medications.”

The discovery of this beneficial alternative to medications for depression sparked Cole’s interest in the global health research internship at the CDC, where he might have the opportunity to advise public health policies and projects that promote physical activity and wellness. He sees great potential in the research surrounding exercise as an integral part of improving health and looks forward to exploring how climate affects health care outcomes. 

“I am excited that the internship will combine my interest in making a difference in medicine and public health outreach on a larger scale than just a hospital or clinic system,” he says.

Following graduation, Cole hopes to bridge the gap between physician experience and administrative decision-making in a health care clinic system by working part-time as a clinician and an administrator. As a dual degree student in osteopathic medicine and health care administration, he wants to bring insights on real patient needs to disconnected health care administration boards through his interactions with patients as a physician. Ultimately, he hopes to help invest resources into projects that improve patient quality of life, reduce negative outcomes and save money. The CDC internship this summer will be a great steppingstone to achieving this ultimate goal.

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