by Ananya Vittaladevuni
This summer, the people, lessons, and resources at UCSF taught me more than three years of high school.
As a rising senior, I had heard of public health, but the UCSF Institute of Global Health Sciences (IGHS) Summer Researchers in Global Health (SRGH) high school internship was my first exposure to global health. Previously, I had research, volunteering, and internship experience, but I never connected the dots between the levels of my work and its potential global impact.
During my internship, I worked closely with the Virtual Training Academy+ (VTA+) team, to build and improve the VTA+ website and resources available to local health jurisdictions (LHJs). In one major facet of the VTA+, focusing on accessibility, I learned how vision-impaired people use screen readers and audio aids to navigate websites. I had never considered how a blind person, for example, would move a mouse or know where to click for a link. It was my goal to make all VTA+ resources as accessible as possible. I developed a one-pager on how to use accessibility features in Word, how to share resources with the public, and reviewed the website for accessibility on mobile. Though I didn’t know the difference between HTML and CSS at first, my mentors and the VTA+ trainings helped me become more conscious of my privilege and help make VTA resources more accessible for all.
By taking a VTA+ training myself, I put myself in the shoes of the user. As I simultaneously worked on and used the VTA+, I used my experience as a user to suggest improvements and saw how those design changes positively impacted my experience. Specifically, taking the Cultural Humility training opened my eyes to discrimination in healthcare and how to address it. Even as a high school student, I could easily understand the complex topics pursued in the training. I hope to carry the lessons I learned about tolerance, humility, and courage into the future, both as a biology student and as a kinder person.
Through my work, I learned technical skills, such as website design and communications. More importantly, I practiced how to build connections with my mentors, employees, and fellow interns. I examined the cultural, social, and economic reasons behind these issues, solutions, and how I can impact global issues in the future.