Student Internship Stories: Melinda Stackpole (SAR’23), COVID-19 Action Coalition

CCD: Tell us about your experience. What were your responsibilities?

MS: The COVID-19 Action Coalition (COVAC) is a non-profit organization made up of physicians, college students, and other volunteers who aim to disperse accurate public health information about the COVID-19 pandemic to the general public, specifically in Massachusetts. They deliver this information through social media, town halls, radio and newspaper interviews, petitions, and blog articles. My role in this non-profit is to lead a team of videographers topresent accurate COVID-19 information on the COVAC TikTok page. To do this, I plan content for my team, help brainstorm video ideas, create presentations for weekly update meetings with the social media team to update on our accomplishments and potential collaborations, check-in at weekly team lead meetings to discuss the content calendar and update my supervisor on how my team is performing, create and run a content calendar, help analyze the data with the data analyst, and review my team member’s videos before they are posted.

CCD: What was the best thing about the experience? What was the worst?

MS: Throughout my internship, there have been both positive and negative experiences. Some of the negative experiences include my team not responding to messages and not attending meetings or making content consistently, which led to a lot of the responsibility falling on me, which was more than my role was assigned to handle. This made it stressful for me at times, especially when it was a week where I had a lot of exams or projects due. The positive experiences, on the other hand, included my relationship with my supervisor and how willing she was to help me resolve the negative experiences, and the fact that I was able to learn so many new skills in a realm that I wouldn’t normally focus on in school (i.e- graphic design, video editing and creation, and social media), while also learning so much about COVID-19 and public health.

CCD: What was the most memorable moment of your experience?

MS: Within COVAC, people are helpful and friendly. All the interns would help each other not only with internship duties but also with classes at school. The physicians would always answer our questions and were willing to help with anything they could. The organization’s structure was adapted throughout my internship as it was a new nonprofit that had to modify as the pandemic changed.With the challenges came rewards, such as the meaningful relationships I made with my fellow interns, supervisors, and other COVAC members. I also felt rewarded when people commented on our videos thanking us for the information or asking further questions, as I felt like I was helping people and achieving my goal of dispersing information about COVID-19 to the public that may not be getting information from anywhere else. I was able to increase engagement on the TikTok page from fewer than 100 followers to almost 500 followers, increase awareness of COVAC through that engagement, and disperse accurate information about the pandemic to over 200,000 people through our video views.

CCD: What advice would you give to another student about making the most of an internship, job, or other career-related experience?

MS: Through all of these experiences, you can learn many lessons about yourself and the field you are working in. I learned that both the medical field and public health have many more facets and purposes within them that people often don’t think about, such as public health information dispersion and advocacy. Similarly, I learned that you can use all of your skills in the medical field not only the skills you learn in medical school (i.e- graphic design, communications, public speaking, etc). This internship opened my eyes to all of the possibilities in the medical field and to another facet of public health: public health information in the light of a pandemic or crisis and how to be successful in that distribution. I was able to apply my academic skills in public speaking, PowerPoint creation, research techniques, and teamwork throughout the internship which helped me to build upon those skills in many ways.

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