Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Summer Internship: Health Systems Program Student Experiences

Three students from the Health Systems Program in the Department of International Health, along with one student from the School-wide MPH/MBA dual degree program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH), had the opportunity to intern at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington this past summer. Through the Bill & Melinda Gates graduate internship program, designed for masters and doctoral students from partnering universities in the United States, students had the opportunity to travel internationally to work on specific projects and a range of public health issues, including vaccine development and delivery, digital health, water and sanitation and health financing. Brief excerpts of their experiences are included below:

Sudip Bhandari, third-year PhD candidate, Health Systems Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Sudip Bhandari

Sudip interned with the Vaccine Development and Surveillance team as a research consultant on the Routine Child Contact Optimization (ROCCO) project. The project aims to optimize the World Health Organization’s routine immunization program, Expanded Program for Immunization (EPI). In this role, Sudip identified gaps where further research is needed to support a change of the EPI vaccine schedule. Sudip also helped to identify opportunities to incorporate new vaccines, nutritional interventions, and maternal, newborn and child health programs in an optimized schedule. With a small team from across the foundation, he traveled to London and organized a day-long convention, bringing together vaccine experts, immunologists and service delivery professionals to validate the research gaps, discuss the feasibility of a schedule change, and identify research areas for potential funding. Going forward, he plans to continue his research on vaccine delivery, exploring the feasibility and cost-effectiveness of multiple vaccine schedules. 

Karam Chohan, second-year MSPH candidate, Health Systems Program at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Karam Chohan

Karam supported strategy, planning and management initiatives for the Office of the CIO. Karam was primarily responsible for developing a dashboard and scorecard for the CIO, in collaboration with IT and security directors, program managers and staff. The scorecard will aid in decision-making and the assessment of services that support the foundation’s internal and external operations. Through this project, Karam fostered interest in a new measurement and mapping initiative to better serve teams within operations and programs. Karam also advised the Financial, Planning and Analysis team on the development of a cost analysis and framework that will inform future investments for global HIV vaccine clinical trials. Throughout his internship, Karam was able to learn about new initiatives, organizational challenges and program strategies across the foundation and the global development community, which have informed his ideas for future research. 

Genevieve Kelly, second-year MPH and MBA student at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the Johns Hopkins Carey Business School

Genevieve Kelly

Genevieve interned with the Water, Sanitation and Hygiene team, where she managed the development of the City Sanitation Equity Dashboard, a model for evaluating sanitation investments in terms of their financial viability, equity of coverage, and effectiveness to safely remove waste from the environment. With Lusaka as the first case study, Genevieve traveled to Zambia to work with the grantee on the project, COWI A/S, a Danish engineering firm, where she learned how to strike the right balance between designing a model that is user-friendly and can function with varying levels of data quality, while also being complex enough to provide relevant, reliable insights into a city’s planned investments. Genevieve hopes to continue working in the sanitation field, now with a deeper appreciation of how private foundations can drive policy changes.

Ruth Young, second-year PhD student, Health Systems program at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health

Ruth interned for the Financial Services for the Poor (FSP) team. The FSP team works with governments and private-sector partners to improve access to financial services for the world’s poorest. Financial inclusion reduces poverty and inequality, which are risk factors for poor health. Ruth reviewed a wide range of literature exploring various aspects of corruption, including how to measure corruption, types and effects, and how governments, organizations and communities fight corruption. “I learned what it means to be part of such a mission-driven supportive organization, how to build collaborative relationships over time, and how admitting mistakes and your own misgivings can be helpful. I loved working in a diverse and international team and intern cohort. I learned new things every day with the team who were welcoming, friendly and insightful,” says Ruth on her experience with the FSP. Going forward, Ruth hopes to continue doing interdisciplinary research as part of her doctoral work.

Learn more about the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation graduate internship program, and view more information on the graduate degree programs offered by the Health Systems Program.