Suparna spent the semester interning with AIDS Services of Austin, more specifically with the organization’s Women Rising Project as part of her Social Inequality, Health & Policy BDP certificate. Suparna helped to create, administer, and analyze a needs-based assessment of HIV-positive women living in the Austin area.
“This internship showed me the large economic disparity that exists in our country, especially when it comes to health care.”
How did you find out about this internship?
When it came time to find a Connecting Experience I knew that I wanted to work with issues related to HIV/AIDS. I had previously volunteered with AIDS Services of Austin through a student organization. I emailed the Volunteer Coordinator at ASA as well as other public health clinics in Austin that I researched online. The email included a short introduction about myself and the Bridging Disciplines Program:bdp and also included my resume.
Tell us about the internship application process.
The volunteer coordinator informed me that they needed an intern for the Women Rising Project. I went in for a formal meeting, met with the volunteer coordinator, and had a conference call the program director for Women Rising. The interview was more of a basic overview of ASA, Women Rising, and the type of work they would need me to do. I filled out a few volunteer forms and a background check. They were very flexible with my summer schedule, and very excited to have me on board.
Describe the work you completed with AIDS Services of Austin.
I worked with the Women Rising team to create, administer, and analyze a needs-based assessment of HIV-positive women living in the Austin community. We decided to administer a survey to collect data and conduct small focus groups to better understand the challenges these women face on a daily basis. I collected the data from the surveys, transcribed notes during the focus groups, and compiled all the information into a spreadsheet. Then, I drafted a preliminary report with basic conclusions for the Women Rising team who then did some more in-depth analysis.
I also attended educational meetings with HIV-positive women who were more than willing to share their experiences with me.
How did this experience connect to your BDP?
I am participating in the Social Inequality, Health & Policy BDP, following the Public Health strand. I was able to apply many concepts I had learned from my BDP classes during my internship.
I took a Sociology of AIDS course which taught me that HIV/AIDS could be framed in different ways. In my Connecting Experience I met low-income women with HIV. Some of these women had to decide between feeding their families or paying for anti-retroviral medications. This internship showed me the large economic disparity that exists in our country, especially when it comes to health care.
In what ways has this CE shaped your plans for the future?
Before this internship, I focused my interests on health needs abroad. After seeing the need that we have in our own country, I have changed my mind. I have always wanted to become a doctor, but have been unsure about which specialty to choose. After speaking with these women, hearing their stories, and listening to their needs, I have decided that I want to be an HIV/AIDS specialist. When I told the women I worked with that I wanted to be a doctor, they told me to hurry up and come back to Austin so I could treat them.