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Sarah Jenner BA’25 experiences a life-changing public health internship in Ghana

by Sophie Cipolla,

Public health student Sarah Jenner BA25 is a go-getter. With aspirations of becoming a doctor, Jenner knew that she wanted firsthand experience in the field before starting applications to medical school. With a rigorous course load — a public health major with double minors in Chemistry and Classical Studies — and too many commitments to make studying abroad feasible during the school year, Jenner decided to use her summer to merge her dreams of traveling and practicing medicine.

With the support of Willamette’s Career Development team and pre-health Cahill Internship Fund, Jenner spent her summer in Accra, Ghana as an intern at the Princess Marie Children’s Hospital. The experience allowed her to job shadow in many different wards, including a family planning clinic, physical therapy ward, ER and malnutrition ward. Jenner even had the opportunity to observe several C-section births — a level of access very few undergraduate interns are offered at hospitals in the United States.

The experience helped Jenner crystallize her career goals. “One of the reasons I wanted to do this internship was because it would give me experience in both public health and clinical health. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to go into clinical medicine,” she explained. The wide-ranging nature of the internship program has given her clarity in that regard.

“Even though I really loved the experience, it helped me realize that public health is more of my focus.”

While in Ghana, Jenner lived in communal housing with other students near the hospital, which set the stage for developing new friendships. Aside from the experiences she got, a highlight of the internship for Jenner was visiting a monkey sanctuary. “The nature in Ghana was stunning, and the people were incredibly kind and welcoming.”

Her interactions with people also shaped her understanding of the importance of her field. “I saw firsthand how important public health is and how much of an impact it can make in people’s day-to-day lives — with things like access to clean water and family planning resources,” she said.

Jenner encourages students to work with the Career Development team to pursue internships in their areas of interest. “Really just go for it. Don’t limit yourself to only looking at certain programs,” she shared. The office offers personalized advising and works with students to strengthen their applications for jobs and internships. The result, as in Jenner’s case, can be life-changing. Her advice is to take initiative and keep an open mind. “Be open to opportunities, and keep searching.”

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