Lab Matters Winter 2019 | Page 17

FROM THE BENCH Midshipmen Meet Public Health Labs in Florida Internships By Stephen L. White, MS, bioterrorism defense coordinator, Bureau of Public Health Laboratories-Miami; Elesi Quaye, assistant laboratory director, Bureau of Public Health Laboratories-Miami and Darryl Pronty, MPH, bioterrorism defense coordinator, Bureau of Public Health Laboratories-Miami In the summer of 2017, the Florida Department of Health’s Bureau of Public Health Laboratories (BPHL)-Miami welcomed its first cohort of midshipmen from the United States Naval Academy (USNA) to participate in a three-week internship sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency. The internship is one of several summer internships offered by the USNA Department of Chemistry for students interested in laboratory research or diagnostics. The BPHL-Miami internship provides midshipmen with an in-depth look at the public health laboratory and introduces potential career paths in public health. BPHL staff developed the internship schedule and curriculum over several months, and plan to revise it annually following participant performance and feedback. Upon arrival in Miami, the midshipmen train alongside experienced laboratorians, infectious disease and environmental health epidemiologists, and other laboratory partners to gain a unique perspective on the roles and responsibilities of a public health laboratory. Although activities vary each year, the internship provides experiential learning through lecture-based theory, case studies, webinars, exercises, field excursions and, of course, hands-on experience at the bench. It culminates in a presentation to laboratory staff of their learnings from the internship and their analysis of a case study highlighting the contribution of the laboratory to public health. At the conclusion of the program, the midshipmen evaluate all facets of the internship, including program content, administration and excursions. This evaluation is compared with their input on a pre-test. To help facilitate the internship and provide a more comprehensive experience, staff at BPHL-Miami also work closely with staff from sister laboratories in Jacksonville and Tampa; this exposes the midshipmen to testing that is not PublicHealthLabs @APHL BPHL-Miami staff with the 2017 midshipmen. Photo: BPHL-Miami available in Miami, such as whole genome sequencing and Mycobacterium testing. In addition to laboratory testing, the midshipmen meet with other laboratory partners. Over the past two years, interns have met with epidemiologists, FBI agents, biosafety experts, civil support team laboratorians and quarantine station staff. at a conference or other appropriate venue. Continued collaboration between the USNA and BPHL will provide future leaders with an appreciation of the laboratory’s contribution to public health. n Unsurprisingly, these visits and the bench experience are valued most by the midshipmen. Midshipman Garrett Forrester noted, “The ability to learn about the lab and its functions was incredible! I never would’ve known how this all works if not for the internship.” Midshipman Jordan Cabarrus’ favorite activity was the field excursion to sample water for coliform testing; he stated, “I like the field visits the best! The water sampling was a lot of fun!” This may or may not have something to do with the draw of Miami’s well-known beaches. As BPHL-Miami looks forward to its third group of midshipmen in the summer of 2019, it plans to add more time at the bench, expand the number of field opportunities and offer the opportunity for midshipmen to present their work Midshipman Lianne Marquez works up an isolate in microbiology. Photo: BPHL-Miami Winter 2019 LAB MATTERS 15