Megan Davies is a SCDTP-funded PhD candidate in the Department of Geography and Environment at the University of Southampton. Her PhD focuses on substance use and smoking behaviours in LGB populations across the UK using advanced quantitative methods. Other research interests include HIV prevention, health policy and social determinants of health.
I was keen to undertake an internship during my PhD to get some applied experience in an area related to public health. I’ve been really lucky to have done two internships during my PhD, both a part time and a full time one.
I have always had an interest in working with local authorities and particularly on health and social issues, and so for my first internship I was given the opportunity to work with Hampshire County Council which really appealed to me. My internship involved writing a review about social prescribing and community connecting projects across England and specifically in Hampshire.
I enjoyed learning about a new topic, and the project was mainly carried out remotely and independently, which felt similar to my PhD working style. I gained some great skills in learning how to synthesise information for a non-academic audience.
My second internship, which was full time, was with Bristol Health Partners (BHP). BHP are a partnership that aims to improve health in the Bristol area through health integration teams (HIT). I really enjoyed my internship with BHP, they made me part of the team during from day one and I felt like more than just an intern there. Working as part of such a small group is a big contrast from solitary PhD life, and I was lucky to be part of a very supportive team.
My PhD research focuses on smoking and substance misuse, so I worked mostly with the Drug and Alcohol HIT as this aligned closely with my interests. I particularly enjoyed researching drug and alcohol issues in a local context, as my own research looks at these on a national scale. It’s been great to apply academic approaches to on-going projects and see how policy and research can work together effectively. My overall aim for doing an internship was to explore this relationship between the two in a local context, which was definitely met.
One of the most valuable parts of my internship with BHP was the opportunity for networking. I had a fantastic mentor who set up numerous meetings with people from Bristol City Council, research groups at Bristol University and public health programme managers from local Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). I also had the opportunity to present my work and receive feedback at a meeting with multiple stakeholders, which was a great experience.
Both internships have taught me how to write for non-academic audiences, which I think is a great skill to have. They’ve also given me an insight into the structure of local authorities and public health organisations. One of the main things I’ll take away from the experience is how research projects are implemented in local authorities, which are fast paced, can change quickly and have less emphasis on academic rigour. It’s also been particularly rewarding to take part in grass-roots projects that will have an impact on a local scale.
I would highly recommend anyone considering doing an internship to do one. I believe they can be so important in highlighting the many opportunities out there, and for developing skills in different areas. Doing an internship at this stage in my PhD has also definitely made me think about the policy implications of my research and how to incorporate that more into my project. I’m confident these experiences will help me when it comes to applying for relevant posts after my PhD, and allowed me to start building that all important network.