DMU student joins effort to make cities more age friendly

Clarissa Dahm, D.O.’24, completed an eight-week virtual internship with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) during May-July 2021. She was selected to participate in this internship as part of the DMU 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.

During her PAHO internship as part of the Healthy Aging Unit, Clarissa had the opportunity to work alongside people who work to elicit change in the global community every day. 

During the first week of her internship, she took a 40-hour course online about ageism, bias against older adults in the health care realm, and how providers can combat these issues when interacting with patients. Her project was involved with the Healthy Aging Cities and Communities.

Clarissa Dahm, D.O.’24

“Basically, PAHO has developed a worldwide network of cities and communities that have committed to implementing healthy aging practices in their cities to benefit and assist aging members of their community,” Clarissa explains. “These communities can interact within the network and share progress and stories about ways they have made their communities more conducive to the needs of their aging adults.”

She began her project by learning the inner workings of this network. She then talked to several people who worked in the design, implementation and recruitment of cities for the global network webpage.

“There was a lot to learn, and they requested my opinion about the network a lot and valued having a set of fresh eyes look at their set-up,” she says. “A lot more legwork went into the webpage than I would have imagined. What we realized through this process was that there were several kinks to work out in the process of getting a city to apply for the ‘healthy aging city’ distinction and that it may be difficult for first-time users of the program to fully understand how to use it correctly.”

Clarissa analyzed and recorded how to best navigate the network and developed a script for two videos that would help future users. One video detailed the process of applying to become an age friendly city. The other detailed how to continue to stay involved and track the city’s progress within the system once it’s become an age friendly city. She edited these scripts through several rounds of comments from her fellow healthy aging team members, and they were eventually translated.

In the coming weeks, once the scripts have been approved by human resources, she will provide the voice-over for the videos that will then be sent out and posted on the webpage for future users.

“This internship was a great educational experience,” she says. “Although aspects of the internship were challenging, I am glad that I was able to give something back to the people who facilitated my internship and look forward to continuing to advocate for the aging populations in every community worldwide.”

Are you a DMU student interested in the internship at PAHO, the U.S. Global Change Research Program or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention? The application for the Distinguished Global Health Internships for summer 2022 will open on Nov. 12, 2021. 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

We also invite you to join us via Zoom for the Office of Research’s Friday Research Seminar on Nov. 12 at noon, when the 2021 global health interns will present research from their internships. Register for the seminar here.

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