Name: Saskia Holman
Class Year: 2021
Major: Public Health (Independent Major), French and Francophone Studies
Hometown: Austin, Texas
Internship Organization: Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program
Job Title: Health Promotion and Communication Intern
Location: Austin, Texas
What’s happening at your internship?
This summer I am working at the Texas Mother-Friendly Worksite Program, which was developed by the Texas Department of State Health Services. The program works to reduce barriers to breastfeeding by increasing the number of employers who have worksite lactation support policies and programs across the state of Texas. In my position as an intern, I have conducted extensive research on breastfeeding disparities and disparities in worksite lactation support. Building off of this research, I have been assisting with planning an outreach campaign to low-wage employers across Texas to support worksite lactation within service and other low-wage industries. I have also been researching and presenting information on how mothers can safely express, store, and handle breastmilk as they return to work during the COVID-19 pandemic. During my last month as an intern, and National Breastfeeding Month, I will be writing blog posts for the Michael and Susan Dell Center for Healthy Living to spread public awareness of these key breastfeeding-related issues.
Why did you apply for this internship?
I am a current Public Health Independent Major, where I concentrate my studies on the social determinants of health, or how race, gender identity, sexuality, socioeconomic status, and other social factors influence an individual’s access to healthcare and their health outcomes. The Texas Mother-Friendly program appealed to me because of my interest in maternal and child health and wellbeing. Ensuring that worksite lactation support policies and programs are in place for nursing mothers in the workplace is not only a public health issue but a women’s rights issue. Without these resources, nursing mothers are treated as second best to their non-nursing peers. Lactation policies and programs allow for nursing mothers to return to work with the knowledge that they will be accommodated to. These policies and programs also increase greater workplace gender equality.
Texas Mother-Friendly is unique in that it connects a public university (the University of Texas School of Public Health), a privately-funded organization (The Michael and Susan Dell Foundation), and a state government department (the Texas Department of State Health Services). As someone who is interested in potentially working for all three of these types of organizations, the internship is a chance to gain crucial information about how they function.
Working remotely for the first time? What has that experience been like for you?
In a group meeting, my supervisor reminded us that our concentration and productivity during this time might be different than normal and that we have to be kind to ourselves. This was a really helpful reminder for me. I have definitely struggled with adjusting to working remotely and finding focus during times of global stress and change. Connecting with coworkers is harder over Zoom meetings and phone calls than in a face-to-face office environment. However, I am grateful to work with an organization—and people—that values kindness and flexibility during this global pandemic.
What is most rewarding about your internship?
I am grateful to work with supervisors who are genuinely interested in what I have to say and value my input. My internship started off with conducting a literature review on worksite lactation support. In my research, I noticed that worksite lactation support was lacking in service industries like childcare, food service, and retail. After I presented my research to my supervisor and the disparities I had found, we started drafting ideas for an outreach campaign to low-wage employers with the intention of providing Texas Mother-Friendly’s services to a wider range of industries. Texas Mother-Friendly does incredible work in Texas, but most of the employers they have partnered with are in higher-wage sectors like technology, healthcare, and business. As someone who is invested in addressing health disparities through actionable solutions, I was excited to facilitate an outreach campaign that would impact a wider range of employees and directly reduce breastfeeding disparities in Texas.
Visit the Summer 2020 Internships page to read more student stories.