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Hi all! My name is Caitlin Nygren, I’m a senior from Chicago, Illinois, pursuing a major in Psychology (B.S.) and minors in Chemistry, Medical Anthropology and Business Administration. Even though I’m far from home at Carolina, the last three years have given me incredible experiences and the opportunity to make UNC my second home.

While my educational background is varied, I’ve always known that I wanted to work with people. I’m driven by a desire to understand why and how we do things as well as seek out ways to help others succeed, and down the road I plan on becoming a primary care doctor working with women, children and families. I started my time Carolina as a psychology major because I felt like it would lay the most solid groundwork for any career I chose, and I’ve continually found this to be the case. Topics and themes that arise in my psychology classes tend to weave into my other classes in anthropology and business as well. Despite my dedication to the psychology major and healthcare more broadly, my career aspirations have not been as steadfast and I have used many extracurricular and internship opportunities to shape my long-term goals.

I spent time during my freshman and sophomore year in Dr. Regina Carelli’s behavioral neuroscience lab researching the relationship between distress tolerance and drug addiction using animal models. This experience enabled me to develop lab technical skills but most importantly, I gained an understanding of the discipline and attention to detail required for research of any type. While I ultimately decided that research was not the path I wanted to pursue, I continue to be thankful to the Carelli Lab for exposing me to academia and hands-on research. Since then, I have been able to take a deeper dive into health advocacy and maternal-child health. Through my work with the Student Health Action Coalition (SHAC) and UNC Birth Partners as a doula, I’ve been able to get a more personal look at the impacts of health disparities and the importance of positive early childhood experiences. At the same time, I started taking more courses that emphasized the social determinants of health and systemic barriers to long term health – both physical and psychological. Ever since freshman year, I have known that I wanted to apply to the Gil Internship and it has already been an incredible learning experience.

As a Gil Intern, I have been able to further explore maternal-child health with NC Maternal Mental Health MATTERS. NC MATTERS is a three-way partnership between the UNC School of Medicine, NC Department of Health and Human Services, and the Duke Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. It seeks to provide consultation, toolkits & webinars, and community resources to providers treating pregnant and postpartum patients with behavioral health concerns.

During my time as a Gil Intern with NC MATTERS, I have been working with Karen Burns, MATTERS Program Manager, to undertake a variety of tasks centering on supporting providers who treat patients in the perinatal period. Some of the work I have done includes helping create content for continuing education webinars on attachment and perinatal mood disorders, refining our internal provider database to create a beta version for external use, and continuing to compile community resources for NC MATTERS outreach.

One of my favorite parts of this internship is the ability to sit in on task force and organizational meetings with people involved in maternal health across North Carolina. Being able to see how many people are working to improve health outcomes for birthing people and their children and finding ways to involve myself in that work is incredibly exciting.

Even though I’m only about one month into my work, I already feel like I’m able to translate my classroom learning to real world impact with NC MATTERS. Being a Gil Intern is such a rewarding experience thanks to the support of my cohort members and our mentors and I look forward to seeing how I continue to grow personally and professionally over the course of the semester!

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