Peer-to-Peer Profile: Angela Miller '14

Interviewed By Alexandria McGowan, ‘14

Angela Miller, ’14, recently graduated from the School of Public Health and Health Sciences with a Bachelor’s degree in Public Health Sciences. While a student at UMass Amherst, she interned with the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Alexandria McGowan, ’14, also graduated with the Class of 2014 with a degree in Public Health and worked as a Public Health Peer Advisor.

Photo: Angela Miller in the Executive Board Room of the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland

Angela Miller, ’14, was ready to study abroad in South Africa when she was offered an internship position at the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland. Though she had already committed to a different program, this was an opportunity she couldn’t pass up.

At first, the logistical planning and organization proved stressful. The WHO does not offer financial compensation or housing, in essence leaving Angela to design her own study abroad program. Fortunately, she received lots of help from the UMass Amherst Department of Public Health and the campus’ International Programs Office (IPO). She worked closely with the IPO to find housing, financial aid, and scholarships, and her public health program advisors helped her customize her study abroad experience and tailor her education to meet her interests.

Angela interned at the WHO with a team responsible for training health workers from around the world on core capacity exercise development, and for turning these face-to-face exercises into eLearning workshops. Core capacity exercises allow member states to test and assess which capacities in their countries need improvements so they can be better prepared for public health emergencies. However, due to time and budget constraints, many member states cannot train as many health workers as needed.

The WHO’s newly designed eLearning workshops function on a “train the trainer” model. Face-to-face workshop attendees return home with USB sticks filled with training information, which then allows them to train other health workers in their home countries. The course is now being piloted in several countries and being translated into other languages. In addition to this project, Angela participated in outbreak monitoring meetings, attended the World Health Assembly, and assisted with smaller projects with her team.

By working with colleagues from all over the globe at the WHO, Angela learned first-hand the importance of collaboration. Public Health initiatives are most successful when a wealth of knowledge, ideas, invested stakeholders, and organizations join forces to solve health issues. The best thing about the experience was the people Angela met and worked with on a daily basis.

“The people I worked with were some of the most hardworking and committed people I have ever come into contact with,” she says. “These people crawl through sewers in India to test water supplies. They travel constantly and work around the clock, sacrificing time at home with family members. It is not easy, it is not glamorous, but they all really believe in the mission of public health, and that is so inspiring.”

Prior to interning with the WHO, Angela had a wide range of public health experiences which she believes helped her land the internship. She co-founded the Net Impact Undergraduate chapter at UMass, a club dedicated to the idea of students using their time and skills to make a positive impact. She also interned with the DelValle Institute for Emergency Preparedness, a part of Boston EMS, which gave her hands-on experience designing e-learning workshops for emergency preparedness.

“Becoming a Public Health major was one of my most defining moments at UMass Amherst,” she says. “Something clicked for me and I knew what I wanted to do. I felt like I found my purpose.”

Angela encourages those who are interested to apply for an internship with the WHO. The application can be completed online and is uploaded to a database; global health professionals can review applications easily and approach potential candidates. The WHO frequently takes interns for a wide range of projects.

“Take chances!” she encourages current public health majors. “Try things and go beyond your comfort zone! Explore your interests. It will undoubtedly lead you in the best direction for your career and, ultimately, your life.”