April 21, 2020

Helping a City Through Crisis

UMass Amherst student Ian Worstell ’20 discovers the importance of an internship in a pandemic
UMass Amherst public health student Ian Worstell is learning about COVID-19 through an internship

As an intern for the Health and Human Services Department of Newton, Massachusetts, UMass Amherst senior Ian Worstell finds himself, quite unexpectedly, in a position to assist the city during a health care crisis. “I like being in the right place at the right time to help people,” he says.

Worstell has been working on Newton’s COVID-19 education and outreach efforts. The city of 87,000, just outside of Boston, declared a state of emergency on March 17 and as of April 16 had 375 confirmed cases of COVID-19. 
A double major in public health and biology, Worstell found his internship through Handshake, UMass Amherst’s job and internship database. He opted to live on the Mount Ida Campus of UMass Amherst in Newton for the spring semester—only 15 minutes from his internship at the city hall. While living on the Mount Ida Campus, he took seven credits in online classes and, before the pandemic sent him home, enjoyed the new dorms at Mount Ida and its proximity to Boston.
Worstell began his internship in January, rotating through the five divisions of Newton’s Health and Human Services Department: environmental health, school health, public health and education, emergency preparedness, and human services. He went on restaurant inspection visits, organized educational training events, and developed the department’s first annual environmental health report.
As the pandemic approached, his job description changed and he had the opportunity to make an impact on COVID-19 outreach and education. He made posters for schools reminding children to wash their hands, posted and updated a COVID-19 resource guide on the city of Newton’s website, and reached out to long-term care facilities to help them prepare responses to COVID-19. 
Currently, he is continuing his internship from home in Wenham, Massachusetts. “Obviously, living through a global pandemic is horrible for everyone,” Worstell says. “But it has also been a valuable work experience for me. I’ve learned a lot about all the different cogs in the wheel and how all the players—local, state, and federal—work together. Having this internship has made me a lot more passionate about public health policy.”