Describe your Applied Practice Experience (APE).
I conducted my project with the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH). Specifically, I worked with the Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment (the "Bureau").
In efforts to tackle the opioid epidemic in NYC, The Bureau is currently implementing several large-scale initiatives to increase access to buprenorphine (an effective treatment for opioid use disorder). These initiatives are mainly focused on the supply side via training and providing technical assistance and resources to support new buprenorphine prescribers in NYC. Programmatic and surveillance data suggest, however, that there is not sufficient demand for buprenorphine treatment among those who might benefit from it. To more effectively engage people in need of treatment with buprenorphine, this gap in demand needs to be better understood.
I had the opportunity to explore this gap in demand by developing and conducting six focus group interviews at treatment centers and syringe exchange programs on the Lower East Side and Staten Island. The six focus groups were split into two categories: (1) individuals with opioid use disorder who were receiving buprenorphine treatment; and (2) individuals with opioid use disorder who were not receiving buprenorphine treatment. The goal of my project was to explore and better understand the barriers and facilitators to buprenorphine treatment for people with opioid use disorder, with the ultimate goal of contributing to an increase in demand for this life-saving treatment.
My role and responsibilities at the DOHMH consisted of: submitting to the institutional review board (IRB), developing all focus group materials (demographics questions, flyers, verbal consent forms, focus group scripts and focus group questions), moderating focus group interviews, and analyzing the focus groups transcript data.
My next step with the DOHMH is to submit my capstone project, complete with recommendations for a future campaign to increase the demand for buprenorphine in NYC.
How did you find your Applied Practice Experience?
Dr. Jessica Kattan, Director of Primary Care Integration Unit, Bureau of Alcohol and Drug Use Prevention, Care and Treatment at DOHMH gave a presentation to two of my MPH courses about the opioid epidemic and we instantly connected.
I spoke to the director after class about my passion for opioid relapse prevention and she brought me in for an interview. With the support of Jessica Kattan, Alex Harocopos, PhD, M.Sc., Director of Qualitative Research, and Denise Paone, EdD, Senior Director of Research and surveillance, I developed and carried out my practicum.
What about this project was most appealing to you?
I was given the opportunity to create my own project that the DOHMH plans on using for future campaigns to increase the demand for buprenorphine in NYC.
I am able to be at the front lines of the opioid epidemic with top professionals in the field, and I have the opportunity to make a difference and help save lives.
How have you grown professionally as a result of your Applied Practice Experience?
Through my experience, I was able to move from the classroom to the forefront of the public health fight against the opioid epidemic. I grew professionally by planning and completing all steps of a project I developed. My research is aimed at creating a future initiative of relapse prevention for New Yorkers with opioid use disorder.
How has your Applied Practice Experience influenced your career goals?
My experiences from this internship have confirmed and strengthened my desire for a career in opioid overdose and relapse prevention.
Do you have any advice to share for students who are just beginning this process?
With the resources and opportunity the Mount Sinai MPH program provides, you can find an internship that is meaningful to you. Find or create a project that you are passionate about because you have all of the resources to carry out meaningful, life-changing work.