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New Internship Program Focused on Immigrant Health


Thursday, September 15, 2022   

A new internship program is looking to investigate health disparities among Massachusetts' immigrant population.

The Immigrant Scholar Internship Program at the Leah Zallman Center for Immigrant Health Research is designed to have scholars examine the health of immigrants.

According to a 2021 report, residents in the city of Chelsea, 45% of whom are foreign born, said fear of immigration repercussions prevented them from seeking critical health care.

Jessica Santos, director of the Zallman Center, said in developing the program, she found pushback in wanting to pay the interns a decent wage, with many believing the experience alone would be more valuable.

"Paying interns gives folks who are in underrepresented communities and less elite spaces the ability to actually do an internship," Santos explained. "When I was a professor, I don't know how many of my students would come to me and say I literally cannot afford to do an internship this summer; I just need to work."

One thing she wants to change for the future of the program is to get students from different schools across the state. Rather than focusing on more elite schools, she wants to cast a wide net across schools for all immigrant scholars interested in being a part of the program.

Danielle Chun, strategy and partnership manager at the Zallman Center, said some of the training the interns go through revolves around research methods and means of evaluation. There are specific overviews and methodology training for what an intern might be working on.

She directly supervises the interns and has found while she has helped shape them, they have helped shape the program. One of her favorite moments is watching each cohort of interns take the reins on a project.

"I really love seeing how, even in such a short time, how they really flourish," Chun recounted. "And how they really take ownership of the projects they're working on. In the beginning there's a lot of checking in with me to make sure that what they're doing is right, and as they grow more comfortable with us, and as we delegate more to them and provide leadership opportunities for them to take."

Chun noted her personal goal for the interns is for them to leave the program with something tangible such as a report or presentation, documenting the research project. Although interns enter the program from different levels of academia and different fields of study, she hopes they learn about the cross-section of their fields of study and immigrant health.

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