What I did on my summer vacation: Inspiring reflections from our interns

Each summer, Ariadne Labs hosts a cohort of interns who come from various backgrounds. They study a variety of subjects and assist the organization’s programs and platforms. As they wrap up their summer internships, we asked them to reflect on their experiences and what brought them to Ariadne. Prepare to be inspired.

Leila Ben Halim, Primary Health Care

As a history major with a concentration on contemporary Middle East at Princeton University, my academic background is steeped in historical research writing and developing processes of rigorous thought. After initially becoming aware of Ariadne after reading Being Mortal by Dr. Gawande last summer, I began to research serious illness care and the multifaceted issues related to the impending aging crisis in America. While interning at Ariadne, I was immediately taken aback by the relentless effort to tackle complex problems by layering and puzzling together simple, impactful solutions.

This summer, I worked on the Primary Health Care team and wrote a case study highlighting the infrastructure and practices which have allowed the Omani health care system to produce impressive health outcomes. At Ariadne, I’ve developed an appreciation for the importance of systems in the delivery of public health. In terms of my future goals, I think that law is a powerful tool which would enable me to tackle those broader systems.

Katie Breen, Delivery Decisions Initiative

I’m an MPH candidate at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. I spent most of my 20s in marketing — first I majored in it, then I worked as a creative strategist at big Madison Avenue ad agencies, and then I moved onto the world of marketing for start-ups. But my career left me unfulfilled. When I wasn’t at work, my attention was drawn to issues of health, policy, and social justice, particularly surrounding issues of women’s health and reproductive rights. I decided to follow that interest and in the process discovered that the types of things I was interested in had a name, and that name was “public health.” That led me to my MPH program and then to Ariadne.

This summer, I have focused on creating a landscape analysis for the Delivery Decisions Initiative (DDI) team which will be used to guide DDI strategy and investments moving forward. This landscape analysis involves exploring the identities, strengths, values, and goals of the DDI team and its projects; mapping DDI’s current stakeholders, messaging, and areas of influence; analyzing potential future audiences and priorities; and, eventually, creating a set of decision criteria to guide strategic investments for the team.

I believe strongly that we can and should improve maternal and reproductive health by advocating for policies and programs which give people the rights, resources, and support to make the most optimal childbearing choices possible for their health and well-being. That’s why I’m in public health, and that’s why I joined Ariadne.

Naomi Carrigg, Finance

I am a rising junior at Boston Latin School, where I have pursued interests in political science, social justice, and biology. Here at Ariadne, I have been working with the finance team to organize databases of Ariadne programs used around the world. Working at Ariadne has given me my first experience in an office setting and allowed me to explore what I may want to pursue later in my life, with public health being at the intersection of social justice and biology.

I am just now starting my college search, and this internship has given me insight on different majors I could pursue that could lead me to where I would feel fulfilled at a place like Ariadne. I have learned so much from the staff who have chosen different career paths. This experience has exposed me to the world of public health that I had little knowledge of, and it has given me a new interest in the field.

Eesha Desai, Safe Surgery, Patient Safety for System Expansion

I recently graduated from Boston University, where I completed a degree in health science and had the opportunity to learn and explore health systems research and global health development. My interests in health systems development rest with health economics, health outcomes, wealth disparities, and access to service delivery, particularly primary care and women’s health. I believe one of the most effective ways to gain change in health outcomes is strengthening primary health care systems and empowering women and girls, as this has the potential of creating rippling, generational change.

This summer, I had the opportunity to intern for the Safe Surgery and Patient Safety for System Expansion teams where I worked on a breadth of projects. These included HealthPrism, which seeks to use smartphone-captured data as a means to track surgical recovery and outcomes; investigating physician onboarding strategies; uncovering the causes and impact of rural hospital closures; and identifying patterns in dissemination of the World Health Organization’s Surgical Safety Checklist.

My favorite part about Ariadne is that every individual at this organization is open to talk about their experience, which has led to many conversations with the staff. It was a surreal dream to intern at Ariadne Labs after having heard of the organization’s work for the entirety of my undergraduate career. I could not have imagined a more rewarding internship experience.

Jill MacKillop, Communications Team and Delivery Decisions Initiative

I am a junior at St. Lawrence University majoring in English and Communications, and a native of Chelmsford, Massachusetts. This summer I was (the very first!) Communications Team intern as well as an intern for the Delivery Decisions Initiative. The majority of my work at Ariadne has been contributing to an advocacy campaign to reframe the public discourse around U.S. maternal mortality to focus on dignity in childbirth care.

I enhanced my marketing research skills by finding ways to process and display analytics and managing data tracking systems for future social media campaigns promoting. Completing tasks related to content creation and execution has been an incredibly collaborative experience. My ideas were heard, validated, and carried from one meeting to the next. I was treated and entrusted like a colleague, but mentored and encouraged like an intern. I leave Ariadne feeling satisfied with my accomplishments and learning an unbelievable amount about health care, professionalism, the world, and myself.

Kinjal Vasavada, Innovation Platform

I’m currently a second year medical student at Tufts University Medical School. In my past life, I worked at a boutique design strategy/innovation consulting firm. I helped large retailers better understand the people they’re trying to serve and design customer experiences in line with organizational values.

My interest in working at the intersection of health care and human-centered design began at Stanford. I studied human biology with a concentration in health care design and worked on projects with the Stanford Emergency Department, Palo Alto Veteran’s Affairs Hospital, and the Design for Extreme Affordability Program. While I always knew that I wanted to be a practicing doctor, my experiences as a human-centered designer kept me asking questions about the systems, cultures, and health care institutions I’ve been embedded in. And those questions lead me to Ariadne Labs and its Innovation Platform.

My experience here has been a marriage of my two favorite worlds — human-centered design innovation and health care. Through my work with the Innovation Platform, I’ve had a chance to spread my love for human-centered design thinking at Ariadne. I’ve had a chance to think about how our teams work together and how solution design and development can aid the incredible work that’s done here improve care for every patient, everywhere, every time.

I’ve had a chance to think about the future of Ariadne and our role in a growing, health care innovation ecosystem that every academic medical institution and health care system is itching to enter (if they haven’t entered already!). But most importantly, I’ve had the chance to get to know people at Ariadne, some of the most intelligent, passionate, and interesting people I’ve ever met. As someone once told me when I began at Ariadne, always ask “what brought you to Ariadne?” and be prepared to be amazed.

Gwendolyn Wallace, Science & Technology Platform and Implementation Platform

I’m currently a rising junior at Yale University majoring in the history of science and medicine. My interests include community health and medicine, health disparities, reproductive justice, and urban planning.

While at Ariadne, I was shocked at how people from so many different backgrounds were undertaking a breadth of interdisciplinary work. This summer, I worked with the Implementation and Science & Technology teams on two of Ariadne’s child and maternal health initiatives. For Science & Technology, I worked on the Low Birthweight Infant Feeding Exploration (LIFE) Project to write three brief reports on the state of low-birthweight infant feeding in Malawi, Tanzania, and India. For my work with the Implementation Platform, I compiled information for a generic implementation guide and collaborated with members of our TeamBirth Program to conceptualize what a customized implementation guide would look like for their projects.

Working at Ariadne this summer has taught me, above all, that the way we approach medicine and health can and should be reimagined. I also feel more confident in pursuing my future plans of getting an MD and Ph.D. in the History of Science and Medicine.

Tiffany Xie, Office of the Chief Medical Officer

When I started college, it was difficult for me to pick a single focus area, so I chose to study Biology and English at Indiana University. It’s fascinating to approach topics from the perspectives of both a scientist and a humanist, but I was trying to find a way to synthesize these two fields of study when I stumbled into public health. I love public health because it captures the importance of seeing individual narratives, as in English, while investigating larger patterns, as in biology.

My path to public health started with an internship with the Indian Health Service STD Prevention Program, then moved into epidemiology research at Washington University in St. Louis last summer. I loved this work but didn’t want projects to just end at a paper or report. In searching for a way to use research to positively impact people, I found my way to Ariadne Labs. This summer, I interned with Dr. Evan Benjamin in the Office of the Chief Medical Officer. My three projects centered on researching programs to improve response to adverse medical events, developing a methodology to scout for new ideas, and writing stories that highlight Ariadne projects.

After this summer, I’m going back to Indiana to finish up my degrees, write a collection of short stories for my English thesis, and apply to medical school. It’s been amazing to work here and see the many different opportunities in public health and medicine. I like to think that Ariadne is the place that finds harmony in chaos — a bunch of people from different backgrounds and places working together to make change.

For more information on the internship program at Ariadne Labs, please email our team.

Our mission is to create scalable health care solutions that deliver better care at the most critical moments in people's lives, everywhere.

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