Background: The discourse around COVID-19 related challenges to classroom instruction has been highly visible, but little has been published on learning experiences outside the classroom that prepare students to work in the “real world.” Method: We interviewed five Master of Public Health internship preceptors about their experience in 2020 with student interns to formulate pertinent survey questions to distribute to a larger sample. Our questionnaire included closed- and open-ended questions regarding student attributes and skills that shaped the success of the internship. Data were collected from internships sites of one midwestern university. Results: Nearly all 26 preceptors that responded to our survey supervised fully remote internships. Internship sites included academic centers, private companies, non-profits, health systems, and others. Self-motivation, flexibility and organizational skills were considered key student attributes essential to succeed in a remote internship. Being uncomfortable in an online environment or being hesitant or passive were considered student attributes that made remote internships challenging. Preceptors reported that 2020 interns developed different skills compared to previous years, notably, those related to working in an online environment, intrapersonal skills like resilience, and technical skills, such as spatial analysis. Conclusion: As modes of learning and work continue to evolve, internship preceptors will need to learn and adapt to what it takes to support interns to develop relevant skills for remote or hybrid public health work environments. In the meantime, offering clear communication, support, and normalizing remote work cultures may enhance interns’ ability to fully engage and while maintaining the attributes necessary to make internships a success.

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Olivia S. Anderson, PhD, MPH, RD, is a Clinical Associate Professor at University of Michigan School of Public Health, Department of Nutritional Sciences in Ann Arbor, MI USA. She is a licensed registered dietitian.

Dr. Ella August, PhD, MA, MS, is a Clinical Associate Professor at University of Michigan School of Public Health, Department of Epidemiology in Ann Arbor, MI USA.


This project would not have been possible without the University of Michigan Edward Ginsberg Center who helped us recruit community partners. Max Ansorge and Kate Wilhelmi, staff at the University of Michigan School of Public Health also helped with the initial inception of this work. We are grateful to our community partners.




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