Campus News

Q&A: Interning for the World Health Organization

Department of Population and Public Health Sciences September 15, 2017
man speaks at podium at World Health Organization

Part of the Master of Public Health program involves a practicum—an experience that allows students to integrate their knowledge through practical training. The USC Institute for Global Health facilitates several international practicum opportunities, including internships with the World Health Organization and group trips to its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, for the annual World Health Assembly. In this Q&A, Ze Shen, an MPH student in the global health leadership track, discusses his practicum: interning with WHO.

This student spotlight is courtesy of the Master of Public Health Student Association at USC.

How did you find your practicum site?

My faculty mentor, Dr. Heather Wipfli, recommended it to me since I am on the Global Health Leadership Track. She helped me gather the required application materials, apply, and also linked me with contacts and resources in the WHO.

What did you find most beneficial about this experience?

Networking is what I found was most beneficial about this experience. There were weekly events for interns at the WHO, as well as interns working at other United Nations agencies, to mingle and share working experiences [with]. Overall, working with highly competitive and competent interns under the guidance of WHO technical and managerial staff members was an extraordinary and invaluable learning experience. 

How did the MPH program help prepare you for this experience?

The USC MPH program definitely helped prepare me for this experience by providing the requisite courses and equipping me with the background knowledge to intern at the WHO. Even more important were the constant guidance and support of my academic mentor Dr. Wipfli, the MPH practicum coordinator Ms. Rose Park, the previous intern Greg Lee, and other faculty members and students that help me along the way. 

What was the biggest takeaway?

My greatest takeaways from this internship were to seize the opportunity to meet as many new people at your practicum site as you can, take advantage of the events, and practice your elevator pitch many times because a well-versed elevator pitch can help people remember and keep in contact with you. 

How will this experience help shape your future plans?

This experience provided me with a lot of great insights into the realm of global health and clarified the steps I should take and the kind of experiences I should gain in order to work at an organization like the WHO in the future.