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Undergraduate Reflects on Internship with Health Sciences Library

by Kimberley Barker on 2021-05-14T14:37:26-04:00 | Comments

Catherine Nguyen, Marketing and Communications Strategist Intern,
Health Sciences Library, 2020-2021

This post was written by Catherine Nguyen and edited by Kimberley Barker.

My role as the Marketing and Communications Strategist Intern for the Health Sciences Library (through the Internship Placement Program) has been one of the most rewarding and challenging experiences I have had as a student at the University of Virginia. The fact that my first-ever internship was remote and during a pandemic truly makes it a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Before being an intern, I was a Global Environmental & Sustainability Studies and Youth & Social Innovation double-major and I had trouble narrowing what I wanted to do career-wise because of my many interests. My supportive and talented supervisor, Kimberley Barker, Librarian for Digital Life, helped me find my path: public health, specifically healthcare communications. 

Kimberley taught me the importance of audience segmentation, tailoring content depending on the different media platforms, and communicating the intended message via methods beyond text, pictures, graphics, or infographics. I practiced these skills by searching public health news sites to grab the most informative and evidenced-based articles on COVID-19 and healthcare inequities to include on the Library's social media accounts. When I wasn't collecting resources, I was exploring Canva in order to create bold, colorful posts about the Library's many resources. 

Effective communication is vital at the best of times; with the pandemic, it became even more so. Two of the biggest questions the Library faced were whether patrons were aware of its extensive available resources, and if the diverse group of patrons received that message through the Library's different social media platforms. I responded to them by determining on which platforms patrons were and delivering the message to them, through specifically chosen newsletter list-serves, and reaching out to various UVA medical and nursing student social media accounts to spread the message. From here, we wanted to dive deeper and determine whether the Library effectively used different social media platforms to reach the Library's audience. To do this, Kimberley developed a month-long research project in which I monitored and analyzed the social media presences of 14 member libraries belonging to the Association of Academic Health Sciences Libraries (AAHSL). 

From this experience, I was able to observe social media communication strategies and content types, the subject of most being information about library-provided resources such as classes, services, and databases. This was not a surprise but what DID strike me (given the huge impact of the pandemic on BIPOC) was the other libraries' lack of resources for patrons on the topics of healthcare equity/disparities, disability justice, and contemporary health issues that include the effects of climate change and environmental racism on the most marginalized communities in public health. Because our Health Sciences Library DOES provide resources on the topics and posts about them regularly on social media, I had assumed that others would, too. Seeing this lack in other libraries made me realize that accessing the material )and even being aware of these crucial topics) is a huge issue. Having personally experienced some of these critical public health topics in how they have impacted my family and my own health experiences, I realize how critical it is that practitioners and healthcare workers understand these issues and their vital implications-  which is why I want to pursue a career in healthcare communications. 

Through my internship experience, I developed my voice, niche interests, and a new sense of confidence that I never knew I had and will continue to carry for the rest of my life.



Catherine Nguyen is a rising third-year student at the University of Virginia pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Global Studies with a concentration in Environment & Sustainability and a Bachelor of Science in Education: Youth & Social Innovation. She is also minoring in Urban and Environmental Planning. Catherine is a first-generation college student from Dalton, GA, and is a Questbridge Scholar. When she isn’t working or studying, she loves to play with her dogs and cats, discover new music, explore different restaurants, read, and dedicate her time to social justice-related causes. 

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