Global Health Practicum Spotlight: Diet and Physical Activity Research

Paulina Sosa graduated with an MPH in Global Health Policy in 2015. But before that, she had the incredible opportunity to do her practicum in Geneva, Switzerland at the World Health Organization (WHO). 

“Global health has always been my niche,” said Sosa, who knew doing an international practicum would give her great experience due to the prestige and authority of the WHO.

She worked with the influenza and the diet and physical activity teams. While she started her tenure abroad with the influenza team, Sosa wound up doing her Culminating Experience (CE) project on diet and physical activity. The issue of obesity is a personal one for her as well as an area of interest.

Sosa learned firsthand the importance of discussion and collaboration between countries to achieve public health outcomes. She also came to realize the value of data analysis, which is something she didn’t work on prior to her practicum experience. Sosa reflected that even though she wasn’t on the ground, she was working on policy and data that influences behavior in a real-world context. She was “still part of that cycle increasing public health,” she said.

Her classroom knowledge from Milken Institute SPH prepared her to enter the professional realm. Despite the setting difference, she came armed with knowledge about the WHO. Sosa’s main lessons include learning to ask for help when she didn’t understand something, making connections with her teammates and taking time for herself.

Currently, Sosa is a data analyst at the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) and vice president of the Latino Caucus for the American Public Health Association. Her advice to future practicum students is to remember that you add value to the team, you’re worthy to be there and you’re going to make the most of the experience. Those paradigms helped her to get to where she is today.