Taken from the July/August 2016 issue of the Women's Health Activist Newsletter.
Melina shared that she was able to secure an internship in D.C. through UC Davis. “I was very interested in women’s health, and an advisor suggested the Network. The Network internship was in line with my interests and afforded me an opportunity to learn about policy issues affecting women. I wanted to live in DC for a summer, and there was an opening [at the Network]. Everything seemed to be very serendipitous. I remember the best part of the job was reading The Washington Post and The New York Times every single morning. We were supposed to read the paper cover-to-cover to find articles about women’s health. Embedded in that, especially in The Post, were policy issues which directly affected women’s health.”
Another project that Melina worked on was updating an information packet on Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs). Other highlights included attending a press conference at The National Press Club and a public hearing on thalidomide at the National Institutes of Health.
Melina recalled that the most memorable part of her internship was her work on STDs, noting, “I was encouraged by the Network to submit it to a conference.” Her session proposal was accepted and, with UC Davis’ financial support, Melina attended an international conference in Peru, seated a stone’s throw from then-President Alberto Fujimori. “It was a great opportunity that I only had because I was an intern.” “[The conference] was really a springboard for everything that’s happened to me in my career. It was the first conference experience I ever had, and it made me more interested in research and women’s sexual and reproductive health.”
In describing how her work that summer influences her work today, Melina said, “My background is in public health, in adolescent health specifically, but I always look at it from the female perspective: how do certain policies affect women differentially than men? Are women included? Looking at subgroups: how are African American women different? Latinas? Carving [data] up more to understand behavior.”
Melina says that the most important lesson she learned during her Network internship was to try new opportunities. “Even if it’s a little bit of extra work, go ahead and do it.” And, her advice to current interns: “Stay up-to-date with what’s going on. I think there are a lot of people making decision for women’s health who should not be making decisions. There’s a lot going on that we’re not privy to — so staying aware is important.”