Public Health major Sofia D’Agostino spent the spring semester of her senior year at a full-time internship at the Rensselaer County Department of Health. She worked primarily on initiatives addressing opioid abuse – she represented the health department at Rensselaer County Heroin Coalition meetings and Troy Regional Drug Court, helped plan a community-wide “Stop the Stigma” event which attracted more than 300 people, and shadowed colleagues on visits to medical offices to promote buprenorphine, the first medication-assisted treatment that can be prescribed by a physician (as opposed to treatments like methadone, which can only be administered by qualified treatment programs.)
D’Agostino said she wanted an internship that would allow her to experience the diversity of disciplines within the public health field. “At my internship, I got to see environmental health, the educators, early intervention, nursing, the medical examiner. It was the best way for me to see all of those areas and to see if I would want to work in a health department,” she said.
In addition to providing professional development, D’Agsotino said her internship helped strengthen her capstone project investigating adolescent vaping and e-cigarette use in Rensselaer County. Her research into the severity of the epidemic led her to develop a school-based prevention program for the health department, as well as a presentation for older adults. “Senior citizens have grandkids who might be vaping,” she said. “It’s important that we give information to teenagers and also to the adults in their lives.”
Before the semester ended, the health department offered D’Agostino a full time position in its environmental health division, and two local school superintendents asked her to consult on their vaping and e-cigarette prevention plans. She started her new job the week after graduation, and began a master’s degree in public health the following fall.
D’Agostino said Sage’s supportive environment has been key to her success. “Small classes allowed me to build relationships with professors who were mentors outside of class,” she said. “When I needed references, there were multiple people I could ask, who would be able to write a solid reference for me. The school has everything to help you succeed.”