Lavisha McClarin

Lavisha McClarin graduated in Spring 2016 with a MPH in epidemiology. During her time in the MPH program, Ms. McClarin researched pediatric health care disparities in a paid internship with the Nemours Office of Health Equity and Inclusion in Delaware, and developed her thesis on pediatric thyroid cancer. Ms. McClarin has accepted a job at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health as a Research Data Manager for the ALIVE Study, a longstanding community-based research effort focusing on injection drug users and risk for HIV. Her faculty advisor was Dr. Olivia Carter-Pokras.

What was a typical day/work week like at your internship?

A typical work week for me while in the Health Disparities Epidemiology Practicum at the Nemours Office of Health Equity and Inclusion (OHEI) included many different experiences. As an MPH Research Intern, I mentored and assisted undergraduate students in their research projects, including leading workshops and journal clubs. I also attended lectures, seminars and presentations held by various medical, biomedical and public health professionals on the work or research they were completing. A typical week at OHEI might also include consulting with other professionals on epidemiologic methodology, completing my own data extraction/data analysis and writing scientific manuscripts. I also had the opportunity to present the studies I worked on at scientific conferences and within the hospital.

Why did you select this internship?

I worked full time throughout my entire academic career, and wasn’t able to take advantage of certain extracurricular experiences that would advance my epidemiologic skills. For this reason, I wanted to be in an internship where I could learn and grow as an epidemiologist. I accepted the internship position at OHEI because it provided me with the intensive training and strong foundation in epidemiologic research and applied epidemiology that I would need as I re-enter the work field.  

What’s a project you completed or worked on that you’re particularly proud of?

I am extremely proud of all of the projects that I worked on this summer, especially considering the amount of hard work and dedication required to complete them within a very short time period. I would say I am most proud of three particular projects that were assigned to me, completed in ten weeks, submitted to a journal and accepted for publication. To come into the internship without real research experience and to come out completely transformed -- with three publications to date -- is a huge accomplishment for me.

What did your internship teach you that goes beyond what you’ve learned in the classroom?

Something I gained from this internship that isn’t really taught in the classroom was an understanding of the interworkings of public health companies and organizations. I had the opportunity to sit in on many meetings with executive, local, state and federal leaders as they discussed public health issues within the communities they serve. Witnessing this has given me a different perspective in how to address these issues with stakeholders as a future epidemiologist.

How has your internship helped shape your future goals and career plans?

Thanks to my internship experience, I have decided to pursue a Ph.D and continue in the field of health disparities research. I have found my passion for research under the direction of the wonderful mentors that I had at this site. I'd like to work in academia one day to give back to the field and mentor future public health professionals.

How did your internship challenge you, and how were you able to meet those challenges?

This internship site challenged me both personally and professionally.  Entering the program, I did not have the confidence I should've had in my skills and abilities, and I often second-guessed myself when it came to certain epidemiologic concepts. Since I was in a mentorship position in addition to a student position, I had to ensure that what I was advising to the undergraduate students was accurate. This forced me to overcome my fears and take ownership of my own knowledge, skills and abilities to be an example to these students. By the end of the practicum, I was completely transformed and felt very confident as a future epidemiologist.

What are some of the most important professional skills or connections you gained from your internship?

Since OHEI was able to send me to multiple scientific conferences during my time in the internship, I had the opportunity to meet, network with an learn from other epidemiologists from all over the world. I also had the pleasure of being mentored by two amazing doctors who are both at the top of their particular fields and very respected professionally. 

Published Jan. 12, 2016