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Right Track Reflections & Ecosystem Health Learnings

Read below for Right Track intern Kulane Said’s final blog post sharing reflections on her summer with IonE and learnings on Ecosystem Health.

Right Track Reflections & Ecosystem Health Learnings | By Kulane Said

As my summer internship with the Institute on the Environment (IonE) through the Right Track program comes to a close, I’d like to share some of the important things I have learned. This internship has been super beneficial to me and I enjoyed learning a lot this summer. I had three initial goals for this internship and everything was going well, but I got sick and had to readjust. 

My goals evolved during my Right Track internship, teaching me the importance of flexibility and how to reevaluate expectations. My initial goals were to (1) better understand my project on ecosystem health, (2) learn how to write using different blog post styles, and (3) write three blog posts. (Learn about ecosystem health in my first blog post!) While I was able to learn about ecosystems health and different blog styles, I was unable to write three blog posts because unfortunately, I got sick. I redesigned my goals with my health in mind to make the most out of my internship.

The next two blog posts were going to be based on interviews with three health care professionals’ work experiences in relation to ecosystem health. I was only able to complete two interviews. Instead of writing separate blog posts on these interviews, I decided to share them in a reflection and summary of my Right Track experience, in this last blog post.

The first interview I’d like to highlight is my conversation with Cathy Jordan, who serves as Director of Leadership & Education at IonE, as well as the consulting Director of Research for the Children & Nature Network. In the interview, Cathy mentioned that when children spend time outside, such as during recess, it increases their productivity in school. Cathy said that when we are in nature, we recover from stressful situations more quickly and our cortisol levels are kept at a lower, healthier rate. So if you are under stress or need something to refresh your mind, take a walk out in nature — the greener the better! This not only positively impacts our health as humans, but also incentivizes us to take better care of our environment, and can lead to an increase in ecosystem health.

The second interview I’d like to highlight is my conversation with Liz Sopdie, who serves as the Operations & Program Development Director for the Rural and Metropolitan Physician Associate Program at the University of Minnesota Medical School. In the interview, Liz shared the importance of community health. Liz defined community health as “having an understanding of how interconnected people are.” Liz highlighted that community health should be a focus for medical students. Medical students are often so focused on what they need to learn in medical school, that it can be hard to get a broader perspective on a patient’s life and incorporate concepts like community health. To be successful, focusing on community health is really important. In the same way that ecosystem health is about the interconnectedness of human health, environmental health, and animal health — community health pulls from this same principle of interconnectedness. 

I learned several important skills this summer. I appreciated interviewing both Cathy and Liz, who helped me gain a better understanding of the connection between human health and the environment and how that relates to ecosystem health. Additionally, this is the first time I have ever done remote work. Remote work really helped me grow, learn a lot about flexibility, and making the most out of what you have. Even though I got sick along the way and didn’t complete one of my initial goals, I still did the best I could with what I had at the very end and adjusted. I am looking forward to applying what I learned this summer about ecosystem health to my future plans to work in healthcare. 

About the author: Kulane Said is a second year student studying at Metro State, aspiring to be a physician assistant. Kulane is wrapping up her summer internship at IonE, which is facilitated through Right Track, an internship matching program coordinated by the City of Saint Paul. Kulane is working with the Sustainability Education team, exploring the intersectionalities of medicine and environmental health for her future career. This summer she is writing blog posts on ecosystem health and on interviews with people in different health fields.

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