Q&A: Student Ragan Martin’s internship resulted in infectious disease resource for childcare centers

By Sophia Meador

Published on September 20, 2023

Ragan Martin

Ragan Martin, an undergrad to grad student in the College of Public Health, completed an internship with Johnson County Public Health. The project resulted in a new infectious diseases guide for childcare centers.

Where is home?

Woodstock, Georgia, which is just northwest of Atlanta. 

What is your current degree program?

I’m a fourth-year undergraduate majoring in public health with a minor in microbiology. I’m doing the Undergrad to Grad program, so I am a first-year MPH student in epidemiology as well.

Are you also involved in any student organizations or activities?

I’m in a few different clubs, and currently on the Public Health Strike Force team at the College of Public Health.

How did you find an internship at Johnson County Public Health?

I received an email from Bonnie Butler (CPH Internship Program Coordinator) and listed on the email was a volunteer position for the student epi-team at Johnson County Public Health. I’m interested in epidemiology and infectious disease, and I was excited about some of the projects they listed that we might be working on. One of them was an outbreak investigation. I applied for that — sent in my resume and a cover letter — and heard back a few weeks later.

During your internship, you wrote the Childcare Facility Infection Prevention Guidance document. What is this document and what is its purpose?

There’s a lot of information about what childcare centers need to do if there’s an infectious disease present in their facility. Childcare workers were overwhelmed with having so much information and not understanding all of it. I gathered that information and condensed it down into a readable and accessible document for childcare workers. It doesn’t contain only scientific language — it’s easy to understand and easy to access. This document serves as a resource for childcare centers that are responding to an infectious disease. Although it was made for childcare centers, I’ve been told by parents that it is extremely useful for deciding whether to send their child to school or daycare.

What challenges did you encounter when creating the document?

It was definitely a larger project than I expected. The document required hours of research into different diseases and childcare center requirements. I didn’t have any experience regarding childcare, so I had to learn. The information I collected and kept track of was overwhelming. I understand why childcare workers also struggle with that abundance of information. The whole project was a new experience. It probably could have used to whole team of people rather than just me, but I’m glad that I could accomplish it.

How did your education at the College of Public Health prepare you for this project?

I think it prepared me a lot for the little tasks. I created a survey and sent it out to childcare centers across the county. We then analyzed the responses and changed the outline with what we needed to include or exclude. I went into that knowing how I should design the survey because of a course that I took. I knew from different classes how to analyze that data and organize it. I also had to do some research on my own, looking at a lot of the common childhood illnesses that centers see, figuring out how childcare centers currently address different infectious diseases, and understanding the legal and licensing requirements for centers. And then taking all that information and working with my supervisor, a disease prevention specialist at Johnson County Public Health, to edit and finalize the document. So, it was a lot of back and forth, a lot of communication.   

How has this opportunity influenced your career outlook?

This opened my mind to childcare and the specific rules and regulations they have to go through when an infection occurs. Now I understand how disease can affect other spaces like nursing homes and prisons, so that’s another avenue I’m thinking about. I also didn’t know what the disease prevention specialist was. That seems like a pretty cool position now that I’ve seen what they do. I previously was focused on a lot of big picture stuff, like state public health departments or the Center for Disease Control. But working at the county level was really interesting. I’m definitely more open to smaller scale public health projects like that. 

Why would you encourage a student in the College of Public Health to find an internship?

I was scared of an internship but I realized once I was there everybody was kind of learning for the first time. Doing this project was probably the highlight of my educational career so far. Now it’s something that I can tell people about, and I know that I’ve made an impact on the community. That’s something that I think is really cool, and I’m so glad that I did it.

Photo by Joey Loboda