Social Science Scholar: Florida Department of Health

This summer, I completed an internship with the Florida Department of Health (FDOH) in Tallahassee, Florida, and Sarasota, Florida. The FDOH oversees all matters of public health and is comprised of a state health office in Tallahassee, and 67 local county departments. My internship comprised of serving at the state health office, as well as a county office in Sarasota. In the summer of 2019, Hepatitis A was declared as a public health emergency, and as such, my projects were centered around reemphasizing the importance of the Hepatitis A vaccination as the best way to prevent Hepatitis A infection in Tallahassee. My primary focus in Sarasota was to develop an age-friendly report to improve the health and well-being of older adults, primarily due to the large population of older adults in Sarasota.

Throughout my internship, I was able to gain clinical and research knowledge. The Health in Motion bus is an initiative that provides no-cost health screenings and referrals for general health and wellness. Intending to help individuals who lack medical insurance find a medical home for ongoing healthcare, I was able to provide health services on the traveling bus. Such services included: blood pressure screening, body mass index (BMI) measurements, diabetes- glucose screening, HIV and STD testing, and tips for staying healthy. It was on the buses that we were able to provide Hepatitis A vaccinations while hosting small educational information in the triage area.

The Health in Motion bus

On the research side, I partnered with FDOH’s community engagement team to compile the data collected from the 750 surveys in the Sarasota community. From there, we were able to determine the well-being of the city, as well as some of the needs that were presented within it. The data allowed the team to identify areas where public health can support, complement, or enhance aging services.

Overall, the experience I had through my internship was extremely beneficial to exposing me to the intersection of policy and medicine, which is how I hope to serve. I realized preventative medicine is essential for the continued health and wellness of a community. The relationships I had a chance to develop were based on mutual trust and respect, where people were more willing to listen and were open about their lifestyle habits and medical concerns.

Hand in hand with medicine is the policy that determines how government decisions are made and the projects required to bring those decisions to fruition. With the public’s best interest in mind, these projects advocate for the needs of people, whether it is equitable healthcare, affordable medicine, or innovations in medicine. The experience I gained through the Social Science Program was crucial in my discovery of advocating for the needs of patients.

Stephanie Lee is Florida State University’s Student Body Vice President and a Social Science Scholar majoring in International Affairs. With a passion for advocacy, Stephanie advocates for Asian American affairs, sustainable service, and serving marginalized communities. She has a particular interest in the intersection of education in the healthcare system, specifically with NGOs.

The logo is from the Florida Department of Health. The image of the Health in Motion bus is from the Sarasota County Health Department.

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