Chemistry major’s internship research informs CDC call center protocol

An internship is one of the best ways to practice and explore your future profession. Deon Heavens ’19 learned that first-hand after landing an internship with Project Imhotep.

Deon Heavens ’19

Sponsored by the Public Health Sciences Institute at Morehouse College and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Office of Minority Health and Health Equity (OMHHE), Project Imhotep is an 11-week summer internship designed to increase the knowledge and skills of underrepresented minority students in the fields of biostatistics, epidemiology, and occupational safety and health.

The program begins with two weeks of intensive public health training and courses, including Public Health & Health Disparities, Epidemiology, Biostatistics and Scientific Writing. Interns also participate in seminars and workshops, and are required to complete 16 hours of community service.

Each intern also is paired with a mentor—experts at the CDC, academic institutions, local and state agencies, and community-based organizations—to complete a public health original research project and research manuscript suitable for publication in a scientific journal.

Heavens, a chemistry major, researched how to improve the efficiency of the CDC Call Center, which he describes as more “psychology-based” research. For eight weeks, Heavens helped train Call Center agents and outlined a study module on appropriate ways to disseminate CDC-approved information to the general public. His focus was the MMR (Measles Mumps Rubella) vaccine and how to make information regarding the vaccine more accessible to the public.

With no previous exposure to public health or psychological research, Heavens was introduced to new aspects of the STEM fields and learned how to be more independent in his research endeavors.  A senior, Heavens says he most valued his chance to work with his CDC mentor, Rachel Kleinsorg, and develop a close relationship with a professional in his targeted career field. He is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Vice President of Upsilon Omicron Chapter, community advisor for Oglethorpe’s Jobe and Dempsey Halls, and is SGA Senior Class President.

The 2018 Project Imhotep interns participated in a three-day Public Health Innovation Challenge with Goodie Nation, which aims to “empower individuals to reduce basic need disparities globally.”  Interns worked in groups to create innovative initiatives to address some of the world’s top public health issues, including food deserts, obesity, and access to care. (Source: Morehouse College)

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