Interning with Austin Smiles – Passion in Public Health
by Michelle Liu
“I loved clinical practice, but in public health, you can impact more than one person at a time. The whole society is your patient.”This quixotic statement by Tom Frieden has had a profound impact on my desire to work as a Global Public Health Intern at Austin Smiles. As a graduate student studying Health Promotion and Behavioral Sciences, it is my obligation to improve the health of society through community involvement, policy, and research.
At Austin Smiles, I am actively engaged in promoting the health of Central Texas and Latin American communities by supporting surgical and post-surgical care for children born with cleft lip and/or palate. This organization provides an exceptional opportunity to contribute to local and international communities. During my time here, I have learned to treat public health not only as a passion but as an avenue for positive change. Austin Smiles’ holistic perspective on health is one of the things that makes it unique from other organizations. I have learned from my studies that the way to solve many of American’s healthcare issues is by bridging the gap between social work and medicine which is exactly what Austin Smiles does through their social-emotional support program for patients and families. Maintaining a holistic perspective on factors that contribute to health can reduce health disparities.
It has been such an invaluable experience in my public health journey to partake in making an everlasting difference in the lives of children born with cleft lip and/or palate. Some of the skills and experiences I have gained at this internship are grant writing and tracking, nonprofit event planning, and fundraising strategies. For nonprofit organizations, grant writing is an essential part to funding our support initiatives. Grant applications are aimed at funding newborn surgical care kits and specialty bottles. In the nonprofit planning, sector we have worked with our directors to assist in planning our 35th Anniversary Celebration Gala Event. For this event, I reached out to local businesses and organizations for auction donation items and connected them to our mission and cause. In doing so, we are able to bring the community together through event involvement and contributions. Local universities like the University of Texas at Austin, Concordia University, Texas State University, and many more are involved in our fundraising and volunteer efforts. As I continue my studies in public health, my experience at Austin Smiles will give me the skills and knowledge necessary to tackle my next challenge in public health.
Austin Smiles Fall 2021 Global Public Health Intern
MPH at UT, Behavioral Sciences Health Promotion and Health Education