Reflections on an MCH Field Experience

My experience at the Maternal and Child Health Bureau (MCHB) Division of Research, Training and Education (DRTE) this summer was a period of valuable growth. As a Maternal and Child Health Masters in Public Health (MPH) trainee, I am interested in policy and macro level work, in for example, advocating for increased funding in preventative services for women and infants. I was eager to expand my knowledge in application of federal level policies and Title V programs – programs that are funded and administrated through MCHB.

My main project at the Bureau was working on an online continuing education learning portal for MCH professionals, called the MCH Navigator. Trainees, professionals, and academia can access free online tutorials based on core competencies in public health and MCH. Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to view, screen and summarize these learning resources, as well as implement an evaluation, to contribute to the preliminary launch of the website.

I also met with HRSA and MCHB division directors, including director of the Office of Women’s Health who created and implemented an innovative text4baby program. I participated in Bureau level functions: the training program’s strategic planning goals, the Bureau’s budget review, and Dr. Van Dyck’s retirement leadership seminars. Working as a federal employee during a time of leadership transition– at both the Congressional and Bureau level– was extremely interesting. I was immersed in the battle for funding and debate over policy reform; federal recommendations based off of the IOM’s release of their preventative services for women report is one example that received high media attention.

This summer exposed me to multiple programs and resources I did not know existed. I learned about workgroups in multiple topic areas, including attending the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality that advises the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and one on MCH Nutrition. I discovered some of the challenges of working for the federal government: for example, dissemination requirements hinder federal employees in advocating for funding for their field. However, I also learned about and from the people who are fighting to keep MCH and public health a top priority in our nation. This exposure has renewed my excitement and investment as an MPH student and soon-to-be professional. I look forward to continuing my studies and collaborating with the professionals I made contact with over future years.

Nicole Steffens is a graduate student in the Maternal and Child Health Program at the University of Minnesota.