My practicum with NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina was to take place over 10 weeks, the last of which began on August 2nd. I expected to enjoy my time with NARAL NC, but my practicum has surpassed my anticipations dramatically.
I believe my good experience centers around the way the staff treats me. They speak to me as an equal, not just as a student who needs supervision. While my preceptor helped me identify a few deliverables that I could work on at the beginning of my practicum, she was flexible and supportive when our goals shifted throughout the summer, allowing me to amend my deliverables as needed.
My last deliverable has been my favorite by far. In short, I have been working on a report on a specific public health problem that is meant to be consumed by the public. I started this project by receiving an abundance of raw data that needed to be analyzed, which allowed me to practice my STATA skills. I was able to take some of that raw data and turn it into an ArcGIS map, which I believe will be a valuable addition to the report. Lastly, I’ve been able to practice my graphic design skills by designing the layout and format of the report as I go.
However, my favorite part of this project has been the writing aspect. The MPH program typically requires us to write papers and such in scientific or academic voices, which certainly aligns with the audience they’re meant for. The NARAL NC report, on the other hand, is being created for a non-scientific audience, which has been an amazing challenge for me and my writing skills. I have enjoyed this type of writing more than I expected to. The unique combination of abilities it requires has exercised so many different tools from my toolbox, from data translation and choosing relevant statistics to creative writing and narrative formatting.
This report has really driven home the idea that our job as public health professionals is not just to partake in research and the scientific process, but to make sure our findings are accessible to the world. COVID has been a great example of this, especially now with the concerning Delta variant. The research is somewhat unclear, and while that is to be expected this early in the process, I do not feel that it has been communicated to the world in an organized manner. This, plus government mandates and the loss of progress on “opening back up” adds to confusion and alarm. I’m sure we would agree that the United States could have done many things differently throughout this pandemic, but communication would be towards the top of the list in my opinion.
While my practicum is wrapping up and COVID is picking back up, I will always remember the lessons learned at NARAL Pro-Choice NC.