“Wait, what was that again?” My mind was spinning as I tried to keep track of the acronyms spewing out of everyone’s mouths on my first day of my internship. I seemed to have walked into a world of abbreviations; and to my astonishment, none of them were clearly identifiable. This consonant-laden language had been prefaced by an employee orientation screening that felt comparable to airport security, and all of this, quite before the hour I typically had my morning coffee. As my attempts to use rationale and reason to figure out what each of the letters in each acronym stood for repetitively failed, I began to get lost in the conversation, and I began to panic.
Looking back, I am not sure if my heightened blood pressure was a result of:
- Returning to live at nearly 5,000 feet above sea level for my internship; thus, not reaching my oxygen requirement necessary for my stress level;
- Getting finger-printed on my way into work that morning; or
- Learning that until I received a badge, I had to be escorted everywhere at my new job site; yes, they did mean everywhere.
Truth be told, at this moment I was a bit overwhelmed.
Excitement soon overtook my sense of being overwhelmed, as we walked from the orientation office to my cubicle; my name was printed on the outside of my cube: my name! I felt important.
And, once again, I felt overwhelmed.
Fortunately, the acronyms seem to be second nature now, almost a month after my start date at theCenter for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) located in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Who knew, my home town housed a CDC campus? I certainly did not, at least not until I began my search back in December for an internship position in Colorado that would enable me to work with issues related to climate change and public health.
In the past month, I have had a number of notable experiences, all of which I could easily write home about to Bard’s Center for Environmental Policy (Bard CEP). Specifically, if I were to write home, I would thank the faculty at Bard CEP. Without the training received in my statistics and environmental policy classes, I would be lost reading, summarizing, and, more importantly, evaluating literature and communications here in DVBD. My scientific training on climate change and global climate modeling has also come in very handy, especially as I have been asked to explore issues of climate change and vector-borne disease expansion during my internship. Luckily, my internship seems to be as interdisciplinary as my training at Bard CEP.
The mission of the CDC is to, “protect America from health, safety and security threats, both foreign and in the U.S.” In order to ensure this mission comes to fruition, the CDC “conducts critical science and provides health information that protects our nation against expensive and dangerous health threats, and responds when these arise.”
My particular role at the CDC is to assist my director, DVBD’s lead for climate change, with the many issues that land on his plate. These issues are broad and encompass both highly political issues and highly contentious scientific issues, and often these two intersect. A few topics that I have had the honor to work on thus far include:
- Listening to (often heated) discussions about Lyme disease policy (and I don’t mean climate change in this instance);
- Participating in formal conversations related to climate and public health;
- Summarizing literature advising others on climate and health research;
- Attending conferences, such as the NCAR Colloquium on Climate and Health;
- Collaborating on work with various other government institutions.
If you think these statements are vague, you are correct. Working for the government has taught me something important, and that is the integral importance of remaining neutral as an institution with public protection as its mission.