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Global Health Intern Alum Earns Prestigious Public Health Fellowship


Direct Relief was excited to learn this week that Michael Jacobson – who was a part of the first University of Michigan Interdisciplinary Global Health Internship team that traveled to Bolivia with Direct Relief last Summer – was  recently accepted into the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Public Health Associate Program (PHAP).

The associate program is a competitive two-year paid fellowship in which each PHAP associate is placed at a public health agency and works alongside public health professionals.

The Grand Haven, Michigan native told Direct Relief that his experience  as a Global Health Intern with Direct Relief’s partner, Centro Vivir Con Diabetes (CVCD) in Cochabamba, Bolivia, helped him gain valuable insight to how multiple organizations can work together for a cause and provided him a good example of what he wants to do when he works in health policy.

“Working with different stakeholders to implement solutions that are sustainable in the long term – that’s how you fight a chronic illness like diabetes,” said the ’13 University of Michigan public policy graduate.

As the only clinic in the country solely focused on diabetes, providing comprehensive treatment and education, Jacboson said he’s impressed with CVCD’s  mission to tackle a growing chronic disease.

“Without [CVCD] these people would have no where else to go; they would never even hear of diabetes until it’s too late,” he said. “Without government help, it’s all up to the private and nonprofit sectors.”


While interning with CVCD, Jacobson helped create a marketing strategy for the health center’s restaurant that serves healthy options for people with diabetes and helps raise revenue to subsidize care for its poorer patients. Together, the students – selected from a variety of academic backgrounds – act as a mini consulting team to improve services and ideas at CVCD.

“Michael, and the rest of the team, approached this project with an exemplary mix of humility and intelligence,” said Andrew Schroeder, Direct Relief’s Director of Research and Analysis. “They spent the time and effort required to understand the local nuances of CVCD’s operating model from the inside, which proved invaluable to their ability to apply their own expertise in smart and sustainable ways to the Center’s needs. Direct Relief and CVCD are very proud of the high level work the University of Michigan students accomplished in a very short time.”

Jacboson was equally impressed with Direct Relief’s work.

“[Direct Relief is] making such good investments that help the clinic directly help those in need,” he said.

His experience in Bolivia wasn’t his first time working overseas on public-health related projects. Jacobson previously traveled to Zambia to aid with HIV/AIDS research as well as to Ghana to conduct a survey on blood donation shortages at a hospital.

However, Jacobson said his time with CVCD helped him become more well-rounded and beefed up the expertise he needed to be accepted to the PHAP fellowship.  “I wanted to learn more about diabetes because its a growing field throughout the whole world, especially in the United States.”

When not doing health policy-related things, the self-proclaimed political junkie likes to hang out with friends near the shores of Michigan’s lakes and go downhill skiing. All of that will change in early August when he begins PHAP training for his placement in Jackson, Mississippi. Jacobson said he one day hopes to manage a clinic or hospital.

The Direct Relief community wishes Michael the best of luck and looks forward to hearing of his future accomplishments in public health.

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