Internship: Réseau Sentinelles in Paris

Nargis Aslami studies Economics at the University of California, Merced and intentionally chose the Spring Quarter in London and Paris to add international internship experience to her résumé and explore course topics unrelated to her major. “I wanted to dip my toes in a different field and see what that was like,” she recalls. While she may have charted unknown waters, Nargis is right on course.

Nargis had taken a Health Economics course at Merced and was curious about exploring Public Health for further study. During the first part of her program abroad, she took a course entitled Health, Urbanism, & Social Change that studied questions of healthcare and sickness in nineteenth century London, including a significant focus on the outbreak of disease. She did not know it while she was in London, but her Paris internship would follow the same theme.

In Paris, she was placed with Réseau Sentinelles, a network of French doctors involved in health surveillance and the collection of epidemiological data. The organization maintains a database of disease outbreaks in France, focused primarily on chicken pox, acute diarrhea, and influenza. During her internship, Nargis worked alongside a Ph.D. researcher to connect with health practitioners around the world and create a global database to better predict outbreaks and plan responses.

She created and administered an online survey to collect information about the other sentinel organizations and public health NGOs, translating the results into an online map to track disease. Nargis spent her time communicating with the different organizations by phone and email to learn more about their data collection practices. Now back in Merced, she is still reviewing survey responses and interacting with NGOs and physicians across the globe.

The internship provided valuable exposure to international public health organizations of different size and scope. “Before studying abroad I had a clear vision that I’d go to graduate school and pursue a Ph.D. involving health and economics,” says Nargis, “but I had no idea how my research interests would develop. I have a clear vision now of what I want to do.”