DMU student works to foster public understanding of aspects of climate change

Cole Wesselman, D.O.’23, M.H.A.’23, completed an eight-week virtual internship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) during July and August 2021. He 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.

Cole Wesselman, D.O.’23, M.H.A.’23

Cole’s internship was within the Climate and Health Program at the CDC. For his project, he decided to create a “StoryMap,” a style of webpage that CDC uses to disseminate complex research in an easily digestible form to organizations and entities.

“I wanted to summarize the effects of urban green spaces on human health, active travel and climate change in one location,” he explained. “The effects of green spaces on these three topics are studied and presented often in research articles but would not be well understood by the public.”

Cole began by spending a considerable amount of time reading research articles and finding supporting data for the effects of green spaces on human health, active travel and climate change. He attended weekly climate science team meetings, larger department meetings with more than 400 CDC staff to discuss developments in climate research, and seminars on environmental and human health.

From dozens of articles, Cole created easy-to-read summary statements to include as text on the side of each section of the StoryMap. Some major parts of StoryMaps are infographics, interactive graphs and maps to help convey the information in the side text. Eventually he began inputting all infographics, webpages, graphs and images and citing them in a Word document ultimately to begin the process of government clearance. 

“I know that what I accomplished with this StoryMap will have a positive impact on health care systems, infrastructure and public health departments around the country, and perhaps around the world, in demonstrating the beneficial impacts of creating green spaces to improve human health, promote active travel in communities and assist communities in adapting to climate change,” he reflected.

Cole worked on several other projects during his internship, including contributing to a white paper on allergic rhinitis and climate change; assisting in the creation of a summary document and presentation for the state of Oregon detailing its public health response to the record heat wave in summer 2021; and spearheading the development of a cross-border health effects document with Health Canada, the Canadian equivalent of the CDC.

From his experience working with the CDC, Cole developed a passion for incorporating public health into his career. 

“Whether that is working full time as an epidemiologist at CDC or participating in research that helps further our understanding of climate change on public health, my relationships with my team felt genuine, and I felt like a valued member of the team,” he said.

In summary, Cole found his internship both rewarding and challenging. “Making it known to my team members that I wanted to do as much as possible and help out others filled my time and allowed me to come away with four substantial products in a short internship.”

Are you a DMU student interested in an internship at the CDC, the U.S. Global Change Research Program or the Pan American Health Organization? 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.

Disclaimer: This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of a qualified health care provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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