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Not Just an Internship

July 6, 2017

By Ryan O’Malley

Young man smiles at camera

Ryan O’Malley

The “Washington D.C. Intern Experience” is often something many students, myself included, have always dreamed about. The opportunity to see up close and personal national and international policy change is a magnet for young people around the country and even around the world. Most people, including myself, do not end up interning for the Federal Government. However, that does not mean we cannot advocate for change.

As a person with “invisible disabilities” or honestly for anyone with disabilities, it is a risk to move across the country to work.  For me it is not so much the physical struggle of moving, but the mental struggle. My invisible disabilities, although mostly treated, can really disrupt my life. Luckily, my disabilities have not given me too much trouble thus far in D.C. The first few weeks settling in were quite stressful for me, but knowing that I have the support of the USICD staff and staff at Management Sciences for Health (MSH) has helped me settle into my internship quite well. USICD’s effort to place me at an accepting place for a person with disabilities, accommodate me for housing, and provide me with mentorship and support has made this transition much easier.

Because of the support I receive, I can focus on my internship, which is work on global health issues. I currently do work on two projects at MSH: the No More Epidemics Campaign, and the Leadership Management and Governance Project. The No More Epidemics Campaign is a global campaign to help promote preparedness to prevent future epidemics. The research I have done for publication on the campaign has opened my eyes to secondary impacts, including economic and psychosocial, of epidemics besides the disease burden. We are lucky in the United States to have a strong disease surveillance system that helps prevent epidemics. This is not the case in much of the world. The Leadership, Management and Governance (LMG) Project is collaborating with health leaders, managers, and policy-makers at all levels to show that investments in leadership, management, and governance lead to stronger health systems. The Leadership Development Plus (LDP+) is a project I have been working on data analysis for. LDP+ is a part of LMG that helps teach skills to clinical managers, in order to become better at their jobs. This in turn fosters better health outcomes for patients.

I am excited to work more with the Leadership Management and Governance project because I will get to help develop materials on disability inclusion.  This is especially important to me because I believe that invisible disabilities, such as my own, often go unnoticed. They can cause significant problems, especially in places where disabilities are stigmatized or unrecognized. I have personal experience with this from my time in China, where my teachers punished me because I could not learn Chinese characters like others or control my impulsiveness in class.  Unfortunately, my story is not too uncommon. The Chinese education system does not recognize learning disabilities and there is very little knowledge on mental health issues in China.

Unfortunately, there are countries with even poorer track records than China and thus people around the world struggle day-after-day.  The MSH mission statement is; “A world where everyone has the opportunity to live a healthy life”. Only recently have they been working on disability inclusion. I hope that I can help be an advocate and example for accommodating all kinds of disabilities in the future within MSH, and aid in the push for health programs that address disabilities around the world.

Ryan O’Malley is a member of the 2017 cohort of the USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship program.  he and other USICD program interns are writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with USICD’s internship program and other topics, to be posted at this blog during the summer.  USICD coordinates the internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area.  The internship program was enabled by funding support from  the Mitsubishi Electric America Foundation(MEAF). Ryan O’Malley is completing his internship at Management Sciences for Health (MSH) . Read the biographies of our interns in the summer 2017 program.  Or read blog posts by other current and past interns. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD, MEAF, or MSH

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