The Language of SAS and My Summer Internship

amanda-ecclestonI always wanted to learn another language.  I just never thought that language would be a computer language.

My days this past summer were spent at the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), working in the Immunization Division.  While I also attended meetings, wrote memos, created powerpoints and flyers, the basis of my days were developing a love/hate relationship with SAS.  I’ve never been a technologically-savvy person and never anticipated such extensive use of a computer program in my job, but this summer showed me just how much you can learn and discover with pages and pages of SAS code.  Somewhere over 250 pages of code, to be exact.  What started as reading a journal article soon turned into a huge project on the timeliness of vaccination and rates of underimmunization in Michigan children, hopefully to become my capstone project (!).  Through working with the incredible staff of the Immunization Division, the pages of code soon became interesting charts, graphs, and stats showing when and at what age children were receiving their vaccinations, how far behind they received these vaccinations, and what percentage of children were up to date.  Not only was this past summer a great learning experience, I was also able to undertake an incredibly relevant and useful project.

While I had a fantastic experience at MDCH this summer, I also learned a little bit more about what direction my future career may take.  The state level of epidemiology was a little more disconnected from the community than I realized; more direct interaction, possibly through working at the local health department level, appeals more to my interests.  However, I also obtained a much greater understanding of the overall system of Michigan’s public heath, its many programs, regions, successes, and barriers, and the increasing challenges of budget changes.  Additionally, I learned a lot about the immunization registry of Michigan and the impact a registry can have on vaccine coverage rates.   Definitely a productive summer!

What were your summer internship experiences?  Is there any advice you have for first year students looking into their internships for next summer?  What lessons did you learn?

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