February 26, 2024

Public health student serves Detroiters, peers through internship experience

As part of her public health program, student Bethany Archer (second from left) worked with the Detroit Health Department, gaining practical experience and growing her passion for community health.
As part of her public health program, student Bethany Archer (second from left) worked with the Detroit Health Department, gaining practical experience and growing her passion for community health.

Public health student serves Detroiters, peers through internship experience

As a senior at Wayne State University, Bethany Archer’s experiences in and out of the classroom have helped define her goals — while serving the community and jump-starting her career. Archer, who is double-majoring in public health and political science in the College of Liberal Arts and Science’s Accelerated Graduate Enrollment (AGRADE) program, sought opportunities to better understand the link between policy and public health by working in the field.

In line with WSU’s College to Career initiative, which seeks to provide every student with experiential learning opportunities that allow them to encounter the world, gain deeper insights and new perspectives, and prepare for prosperous careers, Archer recently completed an internship at the Detroit Health Department (DHD). While there, she rotated through the organization’s programs and participated in the 2024 Community Health Assessment process. She then modeled that experience into a practicum project surveying public health on campus and is more focused than ever on her future in public health.

Bethany Archer plans to amplify her degree in public health and political science by attending law school. 

“In these experiences, I’ve learned how important it is to listen and empathize,” she said. “It’s really shown me that public health is the right fit for me and that I’ll be able to make a difference.”

On track to graduate this spring, Archer plans to pursue a law degree before growing her career in community needs assessment and planning.

“I’ve learned that there’s no public health without the law and policy,” she said. “When we talk about reforming health care and community health, there are so many legal aspects. A J.D. will really amplify my degree — and I want to help as many people as possible.” 

Public health in action

Archer learned about the internship in an email from her academic advisor and jumped at the opportunity. At the DHD, she was involved in planning, executing and assessing services, including environmental health education, infant sleep classes, children’s health, reproductive care and more. 

“It was great to experience the breadth of services the department provides to Detroiters and to see how the community engages with these services,” she said.  “I thought, This is public health in action.”

Archer was especially passionate about working with the DHD’s iDecide Detroit program, which offers a network of teen-friendly reproductive health care providers and seeks to remove stigmas around sexual health. She participated in listening sessions about reproductive health laws with teenage girls led by DHD supervisors, legislators and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra.

“In a room of top professionals and administrators, I was treated as an equal. I was passionate sitting in those meetings because we all valued these girls’ voices most,” Archer said. “We were there to learn from the people living the experience. It really drove home the point of public health.”

Extending the experience

Assistant Professor Monique Green Jones encourages her students to engage in learning opportunities outside of the classroom. 

Archer’s work collecting data for the 2024 Community Health Assessment process — Detroit’s first since the pandemic — inspired her to think deeply about professional compassion and empathy. She proposed a similar survey of campus public health through a practicum project directed by Assistant Professor Monique Green Jones as part of the Public Health 4100/4150 course. She plans to share results with appropriate campus partners to help advocate for her peers’ well-being.

“Conducting that survey really took me out of my comfort zone. It’s not easy to ask your peers to complete a survey, especially one that’s deeply personal,” she said. “It was a great experience, though, and reinforced that you never really know what someone’s going through until you ask. Listening is a big part of public health.”

Paving the way

Jones noted that Archer exemplifies the professional qualities she emphasizes in her classroom and that her positive experience with the DHD paved the way for other students.

“Bethany is engaged, conscientious and high energy. She’s not afraid to ask questions or step out on a limb,” Jones said. “The DHD has since come to my class, seeking other students. I tell my students that someone is always watching you and that you never know when a connection might turn into an opportunity — for you or for someone else.”

These practical experiences play a vital role in public health curriculum, a rapidly growing field that attracts those who are eager to work in health care and seeking to make a local impact.

“We’re seeing more students who know that they’re interested in public health, but not necessarily what they want to do with their degree,” Jones said. “In these practical experiences, they get to figure out what they love and make those meaningful connections.”

Faculty spotlight

Contact

Katie McMillan
Phone: 586-344-8878
Email: katie.mcmillan@wayne.edu

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