Blog Health Equity

Summer Research Program alumni blog – Suraj Arshanapally

By Suraj Arshanapally, Institute for Public Health Summer Research Program alumnus

Last summer, I was enrolled in the 2016 Institute of Public Health Summer Research Program cohort. I had the opportunity to learn from two incredible mentors, Dr. Kathleen Bucholz and Dr. Kimberly Werner, within the Department of Psychiatry.

As a research intern, I investigated the association between experiences of racial discrimination and suicide tendencies among African American adolescents and young adults within a high-risk alcoholism family study. I really appreciated working on this project because I was not only able to contribute to the field of psychiatric epidemiology, but I also left the program grounded in the importance of evidence-based public health.

After completing the summer program, I enrolled in a Masters of Public Health program at Yale University. With a social and behavioral sciences concentration, I became particularly interested in education access from a public health standpoint. It was a course I took in public health communications that demonstrated how gaps in education are contributing to health disparities. During that course, I worked with a local federally qualified health center to develop media materials to assist with their increasing health illiteracy rates. This was a memorable experience because I was able to utilize my skill sets in public health research to communicate important health information, thus improving health literacy among vulnerable populations in New Haven, CT.

Following the first year of my master’s program, I was accepted as a summer intern at the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) in Geneva, Switzerland where I would work within the Health Promotion unit within the Department of Noncommunicable Diseases. During this experience, I was able to further my work with health literacy. As my research informed me of the complex nature of health literacy, I conducted projects where I assessed the role that health literacy plays in school-based health programs, and how countries institutionalize it.

Suarj and fellow interns with Dr. Margaret Chan, center, former director of the World Health Organization.

I complete my internship in Geneva at the end of August and plan to return to Yale University to finish the remainder of my master’s program. I am thankful for experiences, such as the Institute of Public Health Summer Research Program and the World Health Organization, for showing me how the field of public health operates in different types of settings!