Health Equity Internship: An Inaugural Experience for an Inaugural Intern

It’s safe to say, you never know how far sharing a simple hello will take you. That is how I found my beginnings at Ketchum.

Near the end of my undergraduate education, I developed an interest in public health marketing and communications. I recognized the value of using these disciplines to educate and inform the public about relevant health topics and made it my intention to be a leader in this industry. As a soon-to-be graduate with a Master of Public Health degree with a prior degree in health promotion, I wanted to know more about potential career paths that I could pursue following graduation. Leveraging the power of LinkedIn, I sent requests for connections, said my hellos, and waited for those who could tell me more.

One of the connections I made was with Ketchum’s senior vice president of Health Equity, Valarie Clark. After a brief exchange of messages, we scheduled a time to meet virtually, and the rest is history.

Lacey Teal at Ketchum's Washington DC officeStepping Into the Health Equity Intern Role

I had the opportunity to serve as the first intern in Ketchum’s inaugural health equity internship. In my initial searches to familiarize myself with public relations, marketing, and communications agencies, Ketchum was among the top companies that caught my attention. I saw the wide variety and impact of their efforts, in public health and beyond, and knew that Ketchum was where I wanted to be. Being new to agency life, I wasn’t sure what to expect – but I recognized that I was passionate about public health and health equity, so this was a great opportunity to do work that matters to the world.

While interning, my work ranged from monitoring key articles and issues focused on health equity, to tracking public health policies and leaders, to identifying key conferences and events focused on healthcare. One of my favorite assignments was assisting with an internal health equity discussion at Ketchum. It was timely, as health equity has become everyone’s business. It was informative to hear from leaders in health equity and gain their insights on the work being done in this space.

I was fortunate to be able to work with several teams within the healthcare portfolio and alongside junior and senior staff members, many of whom come from diverse backgrounds. Each offered their own unique projects, such as those related to stakeholder engagement, the social determinants of health, and minority and vulnerable populations, that allowed me to put my undergraduate and graduate education into practice.

Lessons Learned and Skills Gained

Through this health equity internship, I gained valuable knowledge and skills that could translate well for my future and help me throughout my career. First and foremost, I learned that agency life is quick, ever changing, and requires diligence and passion for the issues at hand. For example, a day may start with no routine tasks and meetings, and by noon, several assignments are due by the end of day … or sometimes within the hour. Nonetheless, this kept the experience engaging and emphasized the need for time management.

From this health equity internship, the skills I gained and the lessons learned are endless. Most notably, I strengthened my belief that communications plays a key role in public health. Communications can support positive health outcomes, give attention to the most vulnerable populations in need and educate about pressing public health issues. The overall internship experience strengthened my conviction in health communications, but most notably it was from observing the energy and commitments reflected by the teams at Ketchum.

Another valuable lesson learned was that in an industry as vast as public health, more specifically public health communications, it can feel as though there is no opportunity for those in more junior positions to have an impact or be involved in efforts related to positive change. While interning at Ketchum, this belief was proven dramatically wrong. As an intern, I felt recognized, heard and valued for what I personally brought to the table within the healthcare portfolio and beyond. My skills, knowledge and experience were respected, and I was encouraged to demonstrate them each day, no matter the individuals or teams I was working with.

What the Future Holds

During my time in the health equity internship at Ketchum, I solidified my desire to continue communications work after graduating with my master’s degree. Public health communications holds great value and there are so many opportunities for making an impact within this field, especially through my work.

Ketchum goes beyond what is expected, truly demonstrating its tagline empathy + intelligence, to support not only overall health, but equitable health — which is desperately needed today. With this experience under my belt, I’m excited to transition into my full-time role as a Ketchum assistant account executive when I graduate in May.

I am confident in knowing that this experience has prepared me for what comes next, and I am optimistic about what the future holds. All in all, I owe Ketchum much credit for supplying me with a unique and valuable real-world experience.

Lacey Teal is a soon-to-be graduate with a Master of Public Health. Previously serving as Ketchum’s Inaugural Health Equity Intern and now Account Coordinator, she has a passion for using her education, skills, and experience within the setting of a larger organization, to actively contribute to notable change within the public health sector and beyond. Lacey has a strong interest in public health marketing and communications focused on health equity, in which she strives to educate and inform on a multitude of platforms about prominent health issues and topics. Now more than ever, recognizing a demand for those who are educated in public health, she is eager to continue her early career in this field.