Eleven students from the University of South Florida College of Public Health (COPH) skipped the beach this past summer and instead worked in conjunction with Hillsborough County Health Care Services to provide quality health care for Tampa’s residents.
As interns for the Healthy Living Program, the students recruited community agencies, such as food vendors, to volunteer during open houses at the program’s Plant City, Lee Davis and South Shore (Ruskin) Community Resource Centers. These centers serve residents who live below 110 percent of the poverty level but don’t qualify for other health coverage.
In addition, the graduate students developed a community health care needs assessment over the course of three months aimed toward benefitting at-risk populations in the Hillsborough County area. The assessment was focused on pinpointing the reasons why many residents experience difficulty when trying to access health care services.
“The Healthy Living Program began welcoming students several years ago in order to get the community centers and wellness initiatives up and running, and we have had groups [interning] there consistently since,” said Dr. Somer Burke, the COPH’s assistant director of experiential learning.
Ms. Renée Wallace, a second-year MPH candidate and intern with the Healthy Living Program, noted that every single day on the job was an opportunity to impact the community’s health in a positive way.
“On a day-to-day basis, we would register people for the free fitness centers, give them orientations on the fitness equipment and educate them on health insurance plans offered via the county at no cost to enrollees,” Ms. Wallace said.
After excelling in their work throughout the internship, the students accepted a commendation award from the county.
The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) extolled the USF COPH team for their “superb professionalism, dedication, and outstanding work ethic demonstrated throughout [the] internship.”
“For me, the greatest benefit of the program was that it allowed us to interact with and learn about members of the community,” Ms. Wallace commented. “This gave me greater insight into ways we as public health professionals can serve the community and continue to bridge the gap between theory and practice.”
Story by Cody Brown, University of South Florida College of Public Health