THESIS: Tribal Health Experimental Student Internship Seminar

Alumni Spotlight

Peruse the THESIS alumni profiles to see their reflections on the program, their advice, and where they are now.

It is bigger than an internship, it is a networking opportunity, and if done right, it is a stepping stone on the bigger path to doing something great for others.”

Pradeeti Mainali, THESIS alumni.

Pradeeti Mainali

Pradeeti Mainali is a first year at Columbia Mailman School of Public Health, studying Epidemiology. Her current plan is to find a practicum experience for summer of 2024 with the health department and graduate from Columbia in the Spring of 2025. Long term, Pradeeti hopes to find a career within data analytics and visualization, using her epidemiology degree and biostatistics certificate.

Pradeeti recommends that future applicants ensure their personal statement reflects why they want the internship and what specific things direct their interest. She says she “feels this is the most important part of your application and recommends letting your personality shine through during the interviews. Try not to be nervous, although I know I was.” Once you begin the internship, Pradeeti recommends choosing a topic you are passionate about and enjoying your time because it ends so quickly!

Her most enjoyable experience throughout the internship was the trip to Atlanta to present at the CDC Showcase. She mentions that it was special because this was the first ‘work trip’ she had attended, and it gave her great insight into how public health meetings were structured. “I got valuable experience presenting my research project in ‘real life’ to people who are experts in the field; it was a great learning opportunity.” She mentions it was a great time to bond and relax with her peer interns through movie theater and aquarium team trips!

Overall, she greatly enjoyed her time in this internship and the relationships she made with her mentors and peers. She felt the internship was very well-rounded and introduced many different aspects of public health while applying native health as a context. Her last piece of advice is to take full advantage of the knowledge and experience offered through this internship!

Jordan Craig

Jordan Craig is a senior at Cameron University studying Criminal Justice. Jordan aspires to work for the Judicial building for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes or with the recovery/harm reduction aspect in Oklahoma courts.

Jordan enjoyed learning more about AI/AN culture from respectable individuals and the disparities that occur in healthcare. Her advice for future interns is to listen intently. She says, “This is an amazing program which you’re fortunate to be considered for. The information you’ll glean is priceless.”

THESIS Intern, Jordan Craig
THESIS Intern, Jheannelle Johnson

Jheannelle Johnson

Jheannelle Johnson is a Life Science Research Professorial at Stanford University School of Medicine  She plans to take the experiences gained in the THESIS program and apply them to her long term goals of doing health advocacy work with underrepresented communities. She says, “I hope to increase global support for initiatives such as increasing health literacy, decrease health disparities and expand access to culturally competent care among marginalized populations.”

Jheannelle’s advice to the future applicants is to allow yourself the opportunity to be curious throughout this process especially if you are coming from a limited background. She noted that the program is designed in a way that nurtures and cultivates that curiosity so you are able to brainstorm new ideas and collaborate in this communal space with your peers and mentors. 

She enjoyed the opportunity to connect with professionals who are currently working in the space of Native American public health. Given that her background is in STEM, this was a great introduction not only to the challenges faced in the field, but specifically how people can use their voices and storytelling to aid in the collective efforts to advance initiatives in tribal public health. 

Colton Shaver

Colton Shaver is an Evaluator at Southern Plains Tribal Health Board now. He intends to further his academic and professional career by obtaining a Master of Public Health. 

Colton enjoyed the networking opportunities that were available and the Showcase at the CDC in Atlanta. His advice for future interns is to ask your mentors questions and to make friends with your fellow interns  He recommends to, “break out of your comfort zone, especially while at the CDC showcase. Make it memorable!”

THESIS Intern, Colton Shaver
THESIS Intern, Abigail Mayes

Abigail Mayes

Abigail Mayes is a senior at the University of Oklahoma majoring in Community Health. She is graduating from OU Spring 2024 and is planning on applying to a PA program to pursue her dream of becoming a Physician Assistant.

She recommends that future applicants not be too afraid to apply and to be open minded. She said, “I was so nervous to apply because it sounded and looked like a very competitive internship and it was! It taught me to never doubt my worth and never doubt my capability to pursue dreams and accomplish them.” 

Abigail enjoyed meeting new peers and learning about the different cultures and lifestyles everyone comes from. She came into the program yearning to learn about her culture that she never experienced. Abigail also appreciated being able to have peers that were comfortable enough to share their stories was amazing to see how it brought everyone closer. She said, “the people and peers you work with and meet through this internship truly become a family!”  

Abigail noted that, “the community we built was amazing over the eight weeks! I loved the independence of traveling to Atlanta to meet everyone. My favorite part of the Atlanta trip was the movie night. I felt like a little kid again going to the movies with all my friends and laughing and enjoying the movie together. It truly was an amazing experience filled with learning, sharing experiences, and building new relationships.”

Overall, Abigail felt that the instructors that taught the curriculum were knowledgeable and supportive. She loved that her mentor was an Epidemiology professor. Abigail appreciated being able to learn about issues and inequalities faced in Native American Health since it is a topic that was not covered in class. After the experience of the THESIS program, she can see herself working in this field one day. 

Macaiah Shendo

Macaiah Shendo is a senior at the University of New Mexico majoring in Psychology. He plans  on obtaining a Masters of Public Health and a PhD in Clinical Neuropsychology with a focus in Indigenous Epidemiological Health. He wants to, “give back to the community that has done so much to lift me up as well.” 

He recommends that future interns do what they are passionate about. Macaiah said, “This life is far too short to be chasing the things that will not bring you joy. Also, do not ever be afraid to ask for help. You never know how much someone will help you!”

Macaiah loved everything about the internship, but the thing he loved most was the sense of family and community the program provided. He mentioned that, “upon arriving at CDC Headquarters to meet in-person for the first time, it was as if I had known my cohort for years. Such a wonderful and unique experience with equally wonderful and unique individuals. I wish I could work with them all forever!”

THESIS Intern, Macaiah Shendo
THESIS Inter, Abby McKenna

Abby McKenna

Abby Mckenna is a junior at the University of Iowa majoring in Public Health and Social Work. She plans on pursuing a joint master’s in Social Work and Public Health. With that, she hopes to find meaningful ways to address issues of interpersonal violence. 

Her advice for future applicants is to connect with others in the program. She said, “While this may feel hard over zoom, using extra time in breakout rooms to connect and build relationships will pay off. It was so fun to finally meet people in Atlanta after knowing them only on a screen!”

Abby enjoyed connecting with students from across the country that came from different backgrounds and experiences, whether that be in public health or other areas. She also appreciated building knowledge from so many people working in areas of tribal health.

Grace Licausi

Grace Licausi is a junior at the University of Wisconsin-Madison pursuing a Pharmacology and Toxicology BS, Neurobiology BS, and an American Indian Studies Certificate. She plans on attending medical school after graduating. Grace noted that she is, “passionate about decolonizing science. I am focused on providing holistic and clinical care that is culturally sensitive, applying it to help aid the disease of addiction. Working towards a future where health outcomes for Native American communities are on par with the rest of the country.” 

Her advice to future applicants is to have an open mind and recognize the importance of cultural competency. She also recommended that interns dedicate their time to what is important and to listen to what everyone has to say to be able to learn.

Grace said that she, “enjoyed getting to connect with other like-minded people in my field, who are passionate about bettering both the individual person, as well as the entire community. It is bigger than an internship, it is a networking opportunity, and if done right, it is a stepping stone on the bigger path to doing something great for others.”

THESIS Intern, Grace Licausi

Kadine Powell

Kadine Powell is a Community Health Coordinator for the Army in Cape Town, South Africa. She is also a first year MPH/MPA Candidate at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Once she has completed her Master’s of Public Health/Public Administration degree, she plans to pursue a career as a Public Health Specialist that allows her to continue to work in Subsaharan Africa.

She implores future THESIS participants to soak up as much information as they can and to network as much as possible. Kadine noted that she, “enjoyed the opportunity to connect with other Public Health students and learning about how we each plan to contribute to public health efforts in different ways.”

Hanna Butler

Hanna Butler is currently in her first year at the University of Pittsburgh School of Public Health obtaining her Master’s in Public Health. Upon completion of her master’s degree, Hanna intends to work with community-based programs.

Hanna’s advice to future applicants is “Just apply! I had no background knowledge on Native health or Native public health, but during this internship I learned so much and will carry it forward with me into my public health career.”

During the internship, Hanna appreciated building the relationship with her mentor and working with like-minded interns across the country. She enjoyed exploring a new topic of Native American public health. Also, a great highlight was traveling to the CDC Showcase in Atlanta, GA and presenting her research project.

THESIS Inter, Hanna Butler
THESIS Intern, Aysha-Lynn Estrella

Aysha-Lynn Estrella

In 2024, Aysha-Lynn Estrella will graduate from Syracuse University with a degree in Health and Exercise. She plans to attend the University of Utah beginning June of 2024 focusing on a Master’s in Athletic Training.

Aysha-Lynn suggests having an open mind regarding your project and being amenable to changes and revisions. She says, “Be passionate about your project.” It helps to find your purpose in your project and what you want to study.

Throughout the internship, Aysha-Lynn enjoyed being in a group of people that recognized the importance of minority health and the effects of its disparities. “I liked how focusing on specific minority populations wasn’t a polarizing topic. Sometimes people don’t believe that communities face inequality in service or data collection, but with this group I didn’t have to fight for compassion and could instead focus my efforts on completing my project without any pushback.”

Sachi Vora

Sachi Vora is a sophomore at the University of South Carolina majoring in Public Health with a minor in Medical Humanities and Culture. She anticipates medical school in 2026 focusing on a Doctor of Medicine and Master’s in Public Health.

Sachi recommends interns to strive to get to know your peers, instructors, mentors, etc. “Everyone has so much to share. This is an amazing opportunity, put as much effort into it as you can.”

Sachi found the THESIS experience invaluable. She had the opportunity to work and connect with public health professionals. “Maintaining this learning network with mentors, supervisors and colleagues I met during THESIS can open doors to job opportunities and provide guidance as I progress my career.”

THESIS Intern, Sachi Vora
THESIS Intern, Lillian Walker

Lillian Walker

Lillian Walker is a senior at the University of New Mexico College of Population Health majoring in Population Health with a minor in Health, Medicine and Human Values. She is working in Public Health Research and plans to pursue a  Master of Public Health & Master of Social Work (MPH/MSW) dual degree program centered around behavioral & community health. Lillian’s goal is to obtain a PhD in epidemiology later on. She said, “my career goal is to be an epidemiologist at the intersection of community health, technology, preventative medicine, health research, and health policy.

Lillian’s advice for future interns is, “If you’re seeing this and considering applying, DO IT!. Don’t hold yourself back from opportunities that speak to you. I almost let this experience slip away from second guessing myself.”  She also recommends that interns network actively in the program to grow their personal relations with others.

She enjoyed the flexibility of the program and noted that, “the content delivered to us was unmatchable. I was able to keep up with this internship while engaging in other endeavors within my life. The wide range of topics covered in the learning sessions were also one of my favorite things about this program…  I also loved getting to attend the poster presentation at the CDC, this was a big moment for me as an undergrad student.”  Lillian noted her appreciation for the exposure to grant writing, public health programs in diverse populations, cultural humility, and research support as well. 

Sonia Khan

Sonia Khan is a graduate student at the University of Kansas Medical Center in the Public Health program. She plans to work for a tribal health clinic as a dental assistant while continuing her graduate studies. Afterwards, she wants to go to dental school that focuses on community outreach towards indigenous communities so she can continue to bring awareness and advocate for better healthcare for indigenous people.

Her advice is to have an open mind and to be willing to adjust or change your opinions on topics. Sonia said, “it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity given as it can be beneficial to your future. Lastly, enjoy yourself and make new friends and do lots of networking!”

Sonia enjoyed networking and meeting people passionate about similar careers. She noted that, “getting to have conversations in person was very rewarding and meaningful to me. I got to connect with other indigenous students and discuss our traditions and how they relate to STEM… I was able to bring awareness and knowledge to non-indigenous students about my culture and traditions and how it stems my interest in public health. Being a part of this internship confirmed my passion for public health and grew my confidence that I belong in this career.”

Putting an emphasis on indigenous healthcare or subjects is very important as it’s often not discussed. Most people are unfamiliar of any customs or traditions and how they relate to a person’s wellness; bringing awareness to Native American community and the barriers to healthcare should be advocated.

THESIS Intern, Sonia Khan
THESIS Intern, Natalie Svebek

Natalie Svebek

Natalie Svebek is on track to graduate from Southwestern Oklahoma State University in December 2024. After graduation, she hopes to attend physician assistant school in Oklahoma. Natalie is an Indian Health Scholarship recipient, so she intends to begin her career working for an Indian Health clinic in the Oklahoma City area. 

She recommended that, “if you have any hesitation about applying, apply anyway! There are so many incredible things that came from this internship program, all from the comfort of your home!”  She enjoyed the flexibility of the program and how the time commitment was manageable. Natalie said, “if you are concerned about not being able to travel or do things while in the internship, don’t fret! Over the duration of the internship I got married, spent two weeks in Florida, moved to Oklahoma..  You can still do all the things as long as you have internet access and your laptop!” 

Natalie said her favorite thing about being a part of the THESIS internship program were the connections that she made. Those connections were with her peers, with the THESIS staff, and professionals in healthcare. She is a firm believer that one can learn best by personal experiences and the experiences of others. 

Karissa Wynne

Karissa Wynne recently graduated from the University of Oklahoma in May 2023 with a Bachelor of Science in Health and Exercise Science. She plans to apply to PA programs and hopes to become a Physician’s Assistant.

Karissa’s favorite aspect was attending the CDC showcase in Atlanta, GA. She says it “was a great opportunity to share what I researched this past summer and learn what others researched.” She notes it was an incredible opportunity to make valuable connections with other students and professionals.

She recommends that future applicants make connections throughout this fellowship with fellow interns and speakers during the internship. She encourages, “All these people are so knowledgeable and willing to help you in any way you need!”

THESIS Intern, Karissa Wynne
THESIS Intern, Lindsey Smith

Lindsey Smith

Lindsey Smith is a senior at Colorado College majoring in Molecular Biology. She plans to apply to medical school this summer and work in research or as a medical scribe.

Lindsay’s favorite part of the internship was the people she met through the process! She felt that the THESIS staff and mentors emphasized creating a space where interns could participate and interact well with each other through a virtual format. She said they already felt close to each other despite first meeting in person at the CDC Showcase. “The trip to the CDC to present our project and meet fellow Lewis Scholars was the cherry on top!”

She advises future applicants to “engage and connect with THESIS staff, mentors, and fellow interns to the fullest extent! Everyone in the program is so knowledgeable and kind, and I learned about Tribal Public Health through this internship.”

MacKenzie Toliver

MacKenzie Toliver is a first-year medical student at Oklahoma State University College of Osteopathic Medicine. She is pursuing a dual degree in Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine and a Master of Science in Global Health as a deliberate effort to address the multifaceted factors influencing chronic illness prevalence, management, and prevention in local and global communities as a physician. In the long term, she hopes to “integrate a profound understanding of broader health systems and their impact on underserved communities into my medical practice.”

Her favorite part of the THESIS internship was the staff and mentor’s commitment to Tribal public health and supporting students with the skills and experiences necessary to navigate the field. She also enjoyed networking with other students, mentors, and professionals as she prepared for medical school. MacKenzie further reflects on her experience and notes, “It was beautiful to see everyone in person in Atlanta and listen to the work everyone had been doing all summer. The connectedness and empathy that the THESIS Interns exhibited stood out amongst the several other groups.”

MacKenzie’s advice: “Showcase who you are and fully lean into the program. Take advantage of the mentorship and lessons. Listen more than you speak. Rest in the power of positive movement as everyone actively advocates for a more equitable world.”

THESIS Intern, MacKenzie Tolliver

Angel Turner

Angel Turner is a senior at the University of South Florida studying Public Health. Upon graduation, Angel intends to pursue a career as a Public Health Investigator.

Angel’s favorite aspects of the internship included the welcoming atmosphere and intentional course topics. “The welcoming atmosphere created by mentors and fellow interns made the experience even more enjoyable. Each topic during the internship was purposeful and educational. As a result, I left with a heightened sense of advocacy, not only for Native American health but also for public health in general.”

She recommends maintaining an open mindset by embracing learning opportunities, stepping outside your comfort zone, and being willing to take on new challenges.

In addition, Angel mentions that the internship program’s flexibility allowed her to continue her personal responsibilities and pursue professional opportunities. “Juggling college, being a mother of four, and working full-time can be challenging, but this internship allowed me to delve into my first experience in public health without compromising my existing responsibilities. It provided valuable insights into potential career paths and personalized guidance from experienced epidemiologists and grant writers.”

Daniel Ruane

Daniel Patrick Ruane is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, currently working in Administration for Endeavor Health on a gap year. He plans to pursue a Master’s in Health Administration at the University of Illinois Chicago. Daniel hopes to be a Nursing Home Administrator as he likes caring for older patients and long-term care facilities management.

Daniel says, “What I enjoyed most about the internship was listening and speaking to a diverse cohort of individuals from all walks of life across the United States. I would gauge that the internship expanded my frame of reference and knowledge base, and for that, I am eternally grateful. I recommend future THESIS interns to stay present, focus on self-care, and network at the CDC showcase.”

THESIS Intern, Daniel Ruane
THESIS Intern, Sarah Solano

Sarah Solano

Sarah Solano is a junior at Emory University majoring in Neuroscience and Behavioral Biology, with plans to apply to medical school this upcoming cycle. She aspires to apply what she learned from this experience to her medical career by actively contributing towards addressing these disparities and enhancing healthcare interactions.

Sarah enjoyed collaborating with her mentor, an experienced Epidemiologist, on the research project she presented at the CDC Showcase and how this experience contributed to her personal and professional growth. She mentions other notable memories, from receiving feedback on her poster from graduate students, viewing poster presentations from other Lewis Scholars and Ferguson Fellowship graduate students, and learning from others’ presentations. She mentions, “I really enjoyed working with such a diverse group of people, both from the Southern Plains Tribal Health Board team and my peers.”

Her advice: “Apply! I didn’t have any tribal health experience when I applied to the program, and I don’t come from a tribal background, but I applied anyway, and I am so glad that I did! It was a unique opportunity to learn about a culture seldom discussed in traditional educational settings. Moreover, I encourage future applicants to take the opportunity to network, ask questions, and be curious. The THESIS internship is an opportunity to learn from others and broaden your perspective, so be open-minded and listen to and learn from the perspectives and experiences of others.”

Overall, she felt this internship equipped her with unique insight into public health, cultural competency, and the healthcare challenges experienced by underrepresented minority groups. She highlights that the leadership team within THESIS has a drive to inspire the next generation to take action to address public health disparities, and those that you work with are fantastic, supportive, and genuinely care about you and what you can learn from the internship.

Kaniesha Valley

Kaniesha Valley is a senior at The University of New Mexico, majoring in Population Health with a minor in Community Health Education. She plans to pursue an MPH in Environmental Health, with a focus on Indigenous Health and addressing health inequity, climate change, conservation of traditional lands, and health disparities. In addition, Kaniesha hopes to find sustainable ways to adapt public health solutions while holding the core and traditional values of Indigenous people and their communities. She aims to be an advocate and resource for individuals who are underserved.

Kaniesha’s favorite part of the internship included creating professional connections, opportunities for mentorship, and attending and participating in the CDC Showcase. Her advice: “Network and be open to all the new things that you are experiencing!”

THESIS Intern, Kaniesha Valley
THESIS Intern, Morgan O'Loughlin

Morgan O’Loughlin

Morgan O’Loughlin currently works for nonprofit organizations, 2ft Prosthetics and Empower Playgrounds. She will attend Duke University for a Master of Public Health in Global Health in the fall.

Morgan’s favorite part of the internship was attending the CDC showcase and having the opportunity to learn from a variety of public health professionals.

Her advice: “Apply, even if you don’t have a background in Tribal Health. I knew very little about this area going into the internship, but it was extremely eye opening, and has influenced my current career goals. I
think this internship would be beneficial to anyone, regardless of their background or future plans.”

Nicki Gau

Nicki Gau is a senior at Virginia Tech studying Public Health. After graduating with her undergraduate degree, she plans to attend graduate school for Occupational Therapy and gain experience in the field.

Her favorite aspect of the internship was the intern community and THESIS staff. She reflects on her experience, “The amount of care put into running the internship for students was amazing, there were a variety of courses put in place, and they highly valued our feedback. The research project and trip to the CDC was a wonderful experience and something I can look back on professionally and socially. I met many wonderful people who clearly love what they do and emit passion and care through their work.”

Nicki says that the personal statement was an important factor in her application and an opportunity to communicate her interest in the internship despite the limited public health experience on her resume,
which aided her application to become a stronger candidate. She mentions that the application process was smooth and not incredibly stressful as the staff had a more kind and conversational approach. She
says, “I still remember really wanting this position, and it definitely showed in my application. Just show your passion and why it’s important to you!”

THESIS Intern, Nicki Gau
THESIS Intern, Rebekah Jin

Rebekah Jin

Rebekah Jin is a senior at Loyola University Chicago, studying International Studies. She plans to graduate with her undergraduate degree this December and work at an international non-profit organization before pursuing a master’s and PhD in Global Health.

Rebekah mentioned that Southern Plains was the best place to work alongside other individuals passionate about public health. She feels that the connections and friendships she created as a THESIS intern will benefit her professionally and personally throughout her life.

Rebekah says that she discovered her love for research and decided to pursue a career in public health because of her time at Southern Plains. She mentions, “As a CDC Lewis Scholar, you will have the invaluable opportunity to learn from public health experts, showcase your research at the CDC, and make friendships that will last a lifetime. No other undergraduate public health internship compares.”

Her advice: “Cherish every minute of your time as a THESIS intern. Research any topic you are interested in and ask any question you have about public health. You will gain an incredible amount of knowledge
in just eight weeks.”

Anaya Iglesias

Anaya Iglesias is a junior at the University of Miami, majoring in Nursing. Upon completing her BSN-RN, she plans to work in a hospital on a Med-Surg floor, serving as an advocate for patients whose voices have historically been silenced. In the years following graduation, she aims to pursue a nursing graduate program with a focus on public health and research. As a nurse researcher, she aspires to create and
implement programs aimed at reducing health disparities among minorities.

One of her favorite memories was traveling to the CDC Headquarters in Atlanta, GA. She says it was a surreal moment, as she never imagined having an opportunity to present her work in this capacity. She enjoyed meeting the other interns and witnessing everyone dressed to impress!

Anaya mentions that she valued the speakers and presenters who delivered engaging lectures and showed vulnerability in sharing their own journeys in public health. She enjoyed exploring Tribal Health
and the Indian Health Services, as she realized the importance of understanding the history of these topics to comprehend current health disparities among the Native American population.

She advises future interns to seek answers to public health questions that have always sparked their curiosity. She says, “There is a great deal of creative freedom in choosing the topic for your research and
presentation, and you have access to incredible mentors who can guide you. While it may seem overwhelming to decide on a specific topic, I encourage you to pursue something you are passionate about!

Anaya Iglesias
THESIS Intern, Raynie Arviso

Raynie Arviso

Rayne Arviso is an Infectious Disease Interventionist currently applying for graduate school programs with an intended concentration in Epidemiology. She plans to continue working for the Navajo Nation
Department of Health’s Infectious Disease program as she pursues her graduate degree.

Raynie’s favorite aspect of the THESIS internship was the opportunity to participate virtually and the advice and networking she gained from the program. She advises future applicants to have fun!

She recommends not to overthink your project but to find a way to make it personal so your passion for your research can stand out!

Angeline Harris

Angeline Harris is a full-time Sports and Recreation Director, as well as a 2nd year at Red Lake Nation College. After graduation, she plans to transfer to Bemidji State University and join their teaching program.

Angeline enjoyed the camaraderie and rapport built with the interns and mentors and the opportunity to meet multifaceted individuals in different stages of their educational journeys. She felt that this internship showcased each intern’s strength and willingness to try something new.

She advises for future interns to take every opportunity that is given to you and don’t be afraid to widen
your horizons and go outside of your comfort zones. She says to take the initiative and keep an open

THESIS Intern, Angeline Harris
THESIS Intern, Brooke Finnie-Roberts

Brooke Finnie (Roberts)

Brooke Finnie (Roberts) is currently applying for Dental School and aspires to become a general dentist and own a private practice. Brooke enjoyed learning about the different aspects and applications of public health and the importance of bringing this focus to Native American communities. She also enjoyed the CDC Showcase in Atlanta and the opportunity to hear from diverse professionals in the field.

Brooke recommends being yourself and highlight your genuine interest in learning and exploring public health in your application!

Kimberly Toya

Kimberly Toya is a Community Health Representative planning to pursue a Master of Public Health with an emphasis in Health Management and Policy. She hopes to focus on health management at Indian Health Services and implementing PL 638 programs after graduation. Her long-term goal is to support Indigenous communities who face barriers with IHS and support IHS in restructuring health care services to Indigenous communities to decrease said barriers.

Kimberly’s favorite THESIS experience was meeting the THESIS cohort in person at the CDC Showcase. She said it served as a full circle moment to capture all their hard work and an opportunity to meet
others within the various Lewis Ferguson programs.

She recommends that future applicants enter this internship with open arms and a willingness to learn information they can apply to their career and academic goals. She reflects on this experience as the exact program that Indigenous students need to be able to learn, grow, and be heard

THESIS Intern, Kimberly Toya

Mikaela Hutchins

Mikaela Hutchins is a junior at Northeastern State University in Oklahoma. She is currently working towards a Bachelor of Science in Nutritional Science with a concentration in Dietetics. Mikaela plans to graduate with her Bachelor of Science and continue to graduate school to pursue a Master of Public Health. Upon graduation, she plans to work for Choctaw Nation as a dietitian.

Mikaela’s favorite aspect of the internship was the CDC Showcase in Atlanta. She mentions there are “so many great projects and the ability to learn so much from all the participant’s hard work!” Mikaela’s advice to future applicants is to make connections. She says, “While this internship is hard work, you meet a lot of great people, and I think that was the most important part of this internship.”

Isabel Sutteer

Isabel Sutteer is a sophomore at Haskell Indian Nations University working toward a Business Administration degree. After obtaining her BBA, Isabel plans to attend graduate school and earn a Master’s in Health Administration.

Through the THESIS program, Isabel gained insight and understanding into the reality of public health issues. Participating in the internship also assisted in growing her passion to pursue a career in the healthcare field. To future interns, Isabel shares this advice, “Don’t be scared to ask questions!!”.

Malia Hardy

Malia Hardy is attending Cameron University finalizing her degree in Allied Health. Malia plans to attend nursing school at the University of Oklahoma Health and Sciences Center beginning in Fall 2024. After she gains her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, Malia will pursue a Master’s in Public Health.

Malia really enjoyed learning new information regarding the Tribal community. She also appreciated the opportunity to interact with new and inquisitive minds. “It was beautiful being able to have an open discussion with different people from all backgrounds.”

Future interns, Malia recommends “To be open and enjoy your time in the program. It goes by quick, but the information learned, memories made and time spent in the program is well worth it!”

Ash Rowe

Ash Rowe is in their first year at the Hudson College of Public Health, University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, pursuing a Master’s in Public Health. After graduating with an MPH, Ash plans to work in epidemiology or population health. Eventually, they see themselves continuing their work in research and supporting the development of behavioral health interventions for people living with HIV/AIDS and other underserved populations.

Ash’s advice to future applicants is “to be true to yourself and to openly express your passions. Each of us have our reasons to apply, whether our goal was to pursue public health or otherwise. The experience that each applicant can bring to the program helps to shape the culture of it, and what we learn together is part of what makes the program valuable.”

“The internship provided me with an opportunity to develop precisely the skills I would need in continuing my schooling. Additionally, the knowledge I have been gifted through the program by SPTHB staff and the program’s guest lecturers, as well as my fellow interns, is something that I will treasure and carry with me into my future career.”

Lucian Nelson

Lucian Nelson is currently a Laboratory Technician. Soon, he will be applying to medical school to become a Doctor of Medicine with a Master’s in Public Health or a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine with a Master’s in Public Health.

Lucian advises interns to have an open mind. “Take everything as it comes and work with it!” Before the internship, he did not have a desire to get a Master’s degree, but left the program searching for an MPH option in his medical school choices.

The THESIS program inspired Lucian to include an MPH in his future education plans. He enjoyed the people he met throughout the program. “All of us had such diverse backgrounds and were able to come together for this opportunity. It was amazing to see how passionate everyone was towards the work they conducted.” Lucian is hoping to have the opportunity to see his fellow interns later in life when they are working in the health field. He would appreciate reminiscing over the experience with them.

Cheney Ngo

Cheney Ngo is a senior at the University of Oklahoma majoring in Public Health. As far as future plans, Cheney states, “I am enthusiastic about pursuing a Master’s in Industrial Hygiene and Environmental Health. This academic pursuit aligns seamlessly with my aspirations, the intersection of public health and environmental sciences.” Cheney is committed to advancing public health and addressing environmental challenges.

To future interns, Cheney says, “Embrace the power of interdisciplinary collaboration; engage with professionals from diverse fields within public health and beyond, as this will broaden your perspective and foster innovative solutions.”

“My internship experience has been a captivating journey into the intricate realm of public health data, with a particular emphasis on the unique challenges faced by American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) communities. Immersed in the dynamic intersection of data science and public health, I delved into understanding the complexities of data structures, analyzing vast datasets and deciphering patterns that play a pivotal role in shaping healthcare strategies. This opportunity not only honed my technical skills but also provided a profound insight into the disparities and health issues prevalent in AI/AN communities.

Brianna Reece

Brianna Reece is currently a Surgical Neurophysiologist and would like to pursue PA school and work in Rural medicine.

Brianna’s favorite aspect of the internship was learning about Tribal Health and opening her understanding to the community and public health overall. She advises future applicants to not take this opportunity for granted and make the most of this opportunity!

Daisy Chavez

Daisy Chavez is a junior at the University of Florida, majoring in Public Health with a minor in Health Disparities in Society. She hopes to obtain her MPH with a concentration in Epidemiology and work for the government, working with underserved community.

Daisy enjoyed engaging with the Tribal public health officials and students from diverse backgrounds. She is grateful to have experienced this internship and learn from different perspectives. She says, “It was very inspiring to collaborate with my peers who were passionate about achieving equity and advocating for all communities. As a first-generation student, the CDC Showcase was also an eye-opening experience.”

Her advice: “To future applicants, be yourself and emphasize your “why”! Demonstrate your eagerness to learn and keep an open mind.”

Vittaleshvara Bhargava​

Vittaleshvara Bhargava is a sophomore at Stony Brook University, studying Chemistry. He plans to pursue a MD/MPH or MD/JD and would love to be a pediatric endocrinologist, advocating for gender diverse youth.

He reflects on this internship as a life changing experience to be part of the inaugural internship class and present research at the CDC Showcase. His favorite internship course focused on cultural competency and its importance in health-related fields.

His advice: “Make sure you are passionate! It is so important to care when you are in this field because people’s lives are affected by this. Without compassion, empathy, and a strong will, your efforts in public health will not pay off.”

Claire Brennan

Claire Brennan is a senior at Pacific University, graduating in May 2024 with a B.S. in Public Health. She will be pursuing a Master of Public Health with a concentration in health equity following graduation. She hopes to work in urban communities and address population-determined non-communicable health

As she reflects on her experience, she mentions, “The collaborative and supportive work atmosphere fostered my growth, allowing me to develop essential skills in public health, community engagement,
and intercultural communication. This experience deepened my understanding of diverse healthcare needs and provided a platform for personal growth and resilience. The internship resonated with my passion for healthcare and community engagement, leaving me with a lasting appreciation for the intersection of cultural sensitivity and effective public health delivery.”

Claire found THESIS to have a profound impact on her personal development. Her advice: “I recommend embracing this internship with open arms! There is so much to learn, and if you can set your intentions to soak everything in, you will be able to make the most of this unique opportunity!”