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From Food Safety to Maternal Health, Interns Seek Change

Published: July 29, 2010
On a steamy summer morning, Mohammad Raquib ’10 pulls up to a Tampa recreation center in a government-tagged vehicle. Grabbing a clipboard and utility belt with his instruments for measuring food temperatures, he proceeds inside the building, ready to make sure the summer program is serving meals that are being stored within state health guidelines.

“It’s always been my dream to work with the Florida Department of Health,” says Raquib, a public health major who has a year-long internship with the department.

This may sound like an odd sentiment coming from a college student – some of whom eat pizza that has been sitting out for a couple days – though once Raquib explains, it seems perfect.

“I believe in change,” says Raquib, who wants to establish a school of public health medicine in his birthplace of Bangladesh, passing on the information he absorbs with his bachelor’s and future master’s degrees.

Being the change must be what public health majors learn, or at least interns. Cassandra Rodriguez- Lamas ’11, a public health major with a minor in psychology, is in Costa Rica this summer working at the OPS/OMS regional office, which is Spanish for Organización Panamericana de la Salud/Organización Mundial de la Salud, translated in English to the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization.

Rodriguez-Lamas spends her days gathering data for a Costa Rican national study on preventing the spread of syphilis and HIV from mother to child.

“Maternal health is the key element in the development of a healthy society,” says Rodriguez-Lamas, who is Costa Rican and dreams of working professionally for the WHO. “By improving the health of the mothers of today, the children of tomorrow will be born healthier and stronger. By improving our society from the root, there will be fewer problems later on in life.”

Dr. Rebecca Olsen , assistant professor of public health, says she continues to be amazed at the opportunities her students have embraced, from studying HIV/AIDS in Palestine with the United Nations to forming public health policy with the U.S. House of Representatives. She says it’s the reason she pushes them so hard academically.

“You don’t want these kids to walk out of here and get grunt positions after they graduate,” Olsen says. “I want them to be major players, and they are. They’re all ambassadors of who we are and what we’re trying to do at UT, and I have very high expectations for them.”

Raquib was assigned to Hillsborough County as a health inspector for the Summer Food Program. He travels to locations around the county doing research, inspections, surveillance and investigations. He is also helping to facilitate the Hillsborough County Health Department’s community health survey , which will provide a database of information on how to improve residents’ health and quality of life.

Raquib credits both Gandhi and the Prophet Muhammad as being change makers he wants to emulate. Raquib left Bangladesh for the U.S. when he was 12. On a return trip in 2000, he was saddened by all the health-related risks that now seem so obvious to him.

“If all we do is stand still and do nothing, expecting others to fix our problems, then nothing will be fixed,” he said.

So he pushes on, learning as much as he can, so one day he can return and be the change he wants to see in Bangladesh.

Jamie Pilarczyk, Web Writer
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