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Exploring the Benefits and Value of Public Health Department Internships for Environmental Health Students.

Internships are an essential component of preparing prospective college graduates for entering the practice-based field of environmental health (EH). EH professionals continually encounter events or hazards of high complexity and impact, and many experienced EH professionals are expected to retire within the next several years. Efforts are needed to ensure a supply of highly qualified and prepared graduates is available to sustain and strengthen the EH workforce. The National Environmental Public Health Internship Program (NEPHIP) addresses this need by supporting health department internships for EH students of academic programs accredited by the National Environmental Health Science and Protection Accreditation Council. We conducted an assessment to examine former NEPHIP intern and mentor experiences and perspectives on 1) how well the internships prepared interns for careers in EH and 2) to what extent the internships provided value to the host health department. Overall, the internships appeared to provide EH students with a well-rounded professional and practice-based experience, while health departments benefited from hosting interns with a foundational knowledge and college education in EH. Promoting the value of public health department EH internships could encourage more students and graduates to seek internship or employment opportunities with health departments, ultimately strengthening the EH workforce.

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