What I Learned from CDC-Thailand as an Intern

By Aimboon Wiratsin

I have received information about the internship at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-Thailand) from my program director, Dr. Tara Chalermsongsak. Mahidol University received my application, selected students in the first round and then sent the list of names to the CDC. I have had a chance to get in and was interviewed by the CDC team and the U.S. Embassy staff. The questions from the CDC team were mainly focused on seeing my perspectives toward the work. The interview gave me the opportunity to talk and ask questions about the work with many professionals from the team with a very friendly atmosphere. However, the interview at the U.S. Embassy was quite serious because the CDC is a U.S. government organization therefore the process of receiving a new member is very significant. All the interviews were conducted using an online platform because of the COVID pandemic.

After the interview, I was accepted into the team and it was time for me to start working! Being an intern at CDC-Thailand was one of the most memorable days of my life. After being introduced to everyone, I was assigned to work with the recency team. The team member and my supervisor then started to explain to me about the work flow and the schedule. The team members were very friendly, very open, and happy to have me contribute to their work. This immediately made me feel very comfortable and definitely made me feel that I was part of the team.

The recency project—about the new HIV recency test—was where I had many chances to work with many groups of people, not only in Thailand but also with the recency team from Laos PDR. The main work I was assigned to was mainly communicating and supporting the team in the conferences and working on the documents that are used in the process between the hospital and organizations. It was difficult to catch up at first because there was so much information that they were working on, however, with the help and suggestions of many staff the work became so much easier.

With the help of my supervisor and team members who have had years of experience in the field, I have learned to write a proposal of the HIV recent infection for Siriraj Hospital and Srinakarin hospital including writing a conference summary. While working on this project I found that each proposal must be checked multiple times by many sectors and any unclear parts must be fixed immediately before sending the form to the hospitals. By observing and learning from them I managed to pick up communication skills and had the opportunity to deal with groups of people from different organizations.

During my internship at CDC-Thailand, I had a chance to experience and understand many different aspects of the project, how it was planned and developed, along with the general process as well as the tasks and details that entered each stage. Another valuable lesson I learned during those six weeks was the different types of work that researchers must perform. This, in turn, provided me with more information about the different kinds of roles and responsibilities they can perform as a researcher. Another valuable lesson that I learned while working at CDC-Thailand was how to work efficiently from home and manage to support the conference through online means. It was challenging and demanding.

In conclusion, I was very happy with all the experiences I gained during my time at CDC-Thailand as a researcher. I strongly agree that Mahidol University should keep on supporting students to gain experience with CDC-Thailand because the student will gain much from working with the organization including vital soft skills. This is because we must prepare to manage all the unexpected events that can occur all the time. Needless to say, this is a great opportunity to learn and try to solve problems by ourselves.

Aimboon Wiratsina, a student in the ICPY program, is a Technical Lab Assistant Intern at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC-Thailand).