As an intern at the Minnesota Department of Health, Alexia Malaga ’14 had a front row view on public health in action when a steroid-associated fungal meningitis outbreak hit Minnesota last fall.
“Everyone rushed to help, to make calls to people potentially exposed to the tainted steroids,” says Malaga, who was not qualified to make such sensitive contacts herself. “It opened my eyes. Previously, I’d been skeptical about working for government, but they are so passionate and dedicated.”
“It opened my eyes. Previously, I’d been skeptical about working for government, but they are so passionate and dedicated.”
A biology major with a concentration in Community and Global Health, Malaga (Hurley, Wis.) planned a medically related fall semester: Immunology, Epidemiology, and an anthropology class called Death and Dying. With three instead of the typical four classes, Malaga sought a real-world internship where she could expand her experience.
Mac’s Internship Office connected her with supervisor Beth Parilla ’05, who coordinates the Minnesota Vaccines for Children program and was happy to have Malaga on board. The Department of Health works with some 500 clinics to provide critical vaccines to low-income and uninsured children.
Malaga worked with the program database, revised forms, and updated handbooks. She also made a list of people she wanted to talk with, and ultimately held informal interviews with staff in HIV and refugee health—significantly expanding her understanding of different public health areas.
She also kept a daily work journal, which she submitted biweekly to Mac’s Community and Global Health director Devavani Chatterjea. Professor Chatterjea, who also teaches Immunology, gave Malaga feedback and ideas for new things to try at her internship.
This spring Malaga went to India, Argentina, and South Africa for a study abroad program focusing on contrasting health policies. In each country, students conducted case studies and met with local health advocates.
Malaga also has a strong interest in traditional Chinese medicine and plans to study it further in China.