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Public Health Young Professional Journey with ASPHER - Internship to Fellowship

Publication date: 11.07.2019
Author: Naomi Limaro Nathan

An internship is a period of work experience offered by an organization for a limited period of time. My internship was part of my two-year master’s program, an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s Degree Programme in European Public Health with a specialization in “Governance of Health Systems in Transition”. Students use the opportunity to gain practical experience relevant to their studies and professional work field. It helps the student to learn discipline and principles of working ethics and particular to my program, helps students to prepare their masters’ thesis. My report is targeted at sharing my experience after a 3 months unforgettable period (March – May 2019) working with the secretariat of the Association of Schools of Public Health in the European Region (ASPHER) in Brussels, Belgium. 

Starting with the purposes of an internship which I do relate with, I would like to highlight these four points:

  • An internship provides a real-life experience and exposure. It enables the intern to gain first-hand exposure of working in the real life which is remarkably valuable towards the intern’s career.

  • It allows the student to harness the skills, knowledge and theoretical practice been taught in the university. To provide the students with an opportunity to apply the knowledge in real work situation thereby closing the gap between academic work and the actual practice.

  • Internship teaches young professionals about specific industries and companies they are interested in, projects their self-potentials, abilities and shortcomings. 

  • Get connected, develop professional network and transition to full-time position.

I am happy to say that in my 3 months I was able to fulfil these purposes with ASPHER and look forward to future opportunities.

Meet the team behind all the Magic!

During my internship, I was privileged to work closely with the ASPHER Secretariat team: Robert Otok, Lore Leighton and Cedric Slock. These amazing three people are the powerhouse of the association and did a great job integrating me into the everyday work of the secretariat. This enabled me to contribute adequately and provide support when needed. 



My internship learning objectives

Some of my key tasks during my internship included:

  • ASPHER Secretariat support,  internal and external communication with ASPHER members

Supporting ASPHER secretariat with tasks and internal communication for members and increasing the presence of ASPHER on social media - Facebook, LinkedIn, increased tweets on the activities of ASPHER, its members and partners. Increasing the visibility of ASPHER  members with the member profiles on the website as well representation of the interests of ASPHER in meetings.

  • Public Health Workforce Development

Knowledgeable on the professionalisation agenda. Public Health Training Academy (PHTA) - Supporting with the implmentation of the Andrija Stampar Summer Educational & Tutoring School (ASSETS).

  • Strengthening partnerships and representation of ASPHER in Europe and beyond.

Liaising with our young partners “EuronetMRPH” for a possible collaboration in Poland.

European Public Health Week – Coordinating the kick-off event in Brussels and disseminating collaborative action of ASPHER members. World Federation of Public Health Association – General Assembly (WFPHA - GA), 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) and This is Public Health - Europe Edition.

  • Increased knowledge and awareness of Essential Public Health Operations (EPHOs), Public Health professionalisation road map and competencies. 

Increased knowledge and insight into EPHOs, professionalisation road map, competencies and credentialing.

  • Initiation of the ASPHER Fellowship Programme

Realisation of the ASPHER Fellowship programme. To support and help build young professionals in the field of public health. Empowering them to participate fully in the professional, academic and practice of the field. Conceptualizing and presenting proposal to ASPHER members for support and participation in the programme.  

  • Master thesis research – Liaising with the World Health Organisation, European Observatory of Health Systems and Policies and experts to inform research.

Evaluating and comparing the governance and its arrangements in health systems of some countries in Europe and Central Asia, specifically exploring the purchasing function. Interview with experts from countries

External activities

Organising the kick-off event of the European Public Health Week (EUPHW) in Collaboration with the European Public Health Association (EUPHA). More about the EUPHW can be found here




Representation of ASPHER at the World Federation of Public Health Association (WFPHA), the General Assembly in Geneva and had the opportunity to present the ASPHER Governance structure at the WFPHA Transformational Leadership Workshop.




Had the privilege to briefly meet with Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus – The Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO). Although brief, I made sure to introduce myself, my profile, the work ASPHER does and my involvement.




Also met the co-chairs of the upcoming World Congress on Public Health: Rome 2020 – Dr Walter Ricciardi and Prof Carlo Signorelli. Excited to know that young public health professionals are a target group for the congress. I look forward to being a part of the congress and ensuring young public health professional participation.




Representation at Key Global/Public Health Events

The 72nd World Health Assembly (WHA) at the Palais des Nations in Geneva, please find my reflections and podcast episode with my dear colleague – Nikita Charles Hamilton, here.

At the 72nd WHA, I was opportune to be part of the Medicus Mundi International (MMI)- (Non-state actors) delegation via the Maastricht Center of Global Health. I witnessed the biggest and most awaited meeting for global health advocacy, diplomacy and “decision-making”.  This experience provided me with insight to global public health issues, particularly health workforce, health financing and governance which are my areas of interest in public health. Two highlight points, from my reflection on the event were:

  • The continuous emphasis on the dire need to involve “young people” in public health processes was also highlighted given that we are the future workforce. However, I was dismayed by the little representation of young public health professionals and I still lack clarity on the how (the action) “young professionals” will be involved and enabled to contribute to these issues. It is my opinion that young public health professionals need to be given an opportunity to be present at these events as it clearly provides insights to the reality of their career path. 

  • Secondly, I could palpate the lack of clear communication and knowledge translation in public health. Sadly, I got to realize how we public health professionals tend to remain in our bubbles, not knowing how to effectively translate and communicate our messages to other sectors/lay people. As a young public health professional, I would like to point out that it is indeed necessary for clear communication and knowledge translation to be highlighted in our studies and practical experience. This is because I believe for us to truly effect change, collaborate with other sectors we need to talk and deliver messages that should be properly understood people/sectors we are trying to influence.  

At the 72nd WHA with some of the MMI delegation: University of Maastricht students and my academic mentor: Dr Remco van de Pas from MMI, the Maastricht centre of Global Health/Institute of Tropical Medicine (ITM)-Antwerp.





The ASPHER Dean’s and Director’s (D&D) Retreat at Erice, Italy

Finally, the highlight and end of my internship was attending the D&D Retreat at Erice, Italy. It was indeed a pleasure meeting all the deans, directors and ASPHER guests, putting faces to the people you exchange emails with. In particular, the opportunity to meet and discuss with icons in the public health field – I truly appreciate this. The key reflective message for me after the D&D’s retreat is that “ASPHER and its members (who make the association), truly have the huge potential and ability to redefine and shape the public health profession so that we, young public health professionals can have a sense of belonging and community towards a brighter future in public health and impactful career trajectories”.

To end the retreat, the secretariat has a lovely trip back to Brussels with Sascha Marschang - European Public Health Alliance (EPHA), Damir Ivanković – ASPHER board, adjunct youth member. 






A special shout out to my academic supervisor, Dr hab. Christoph Sowada, who believes in me and enabled this wonderful opportunity.

My sincere gratitude goes to the ASPHER Executive Board - Presidents Kasia and John Middleton for their support for this opportunity.

To Lore Leighton and Cedric Slock, it is indeed a pleasure working with you both and I learnt a lot from you both. The journey wouldn’t have been this exciting without you two.

Finally, to my wonderful boss, professional supervisor and advisor, Mr Robert Otok, without you all this wouldn’t be possible, it is indeed a privilege working with and for you. You make public health a worthwhile career path to navigate and I look forward to more exciting times and working together.

What lies next for me?

I am now a public health master’s graduate and look forward to opportunities to kick off my public health career and working with ASPHER towards reaching its organisational goals. More excitingly piloting the ASPHER Fellowship Programme – with the support of ASPHER member schools. And supporting the ASPHER secretariat with the coordination of the “This is Public Health Europe Edition Campaign” and the ASPHER Young Researchers’ Forum (YRF) – 12thEdition 2019, in collaboration with University College London (UCL).

Final words

I can confidently say I had the best internship experience. I got all the support, direction and enablement I needed to function, make use of my skills, acquire more and believe in myself. I am very grateful for this, thank you ASPHER for this wonderful experience and future opportunities.

Naomi Limaro Nathan (M.D, MPH)

Rennes, 2019

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