Maggie Kerr
Final Report for Internship
12/12/03
A. Molitor


Final Report on Summer Internship with the Silent Spring Institute


Getting to intern at the Silent Spring Institute for eight weeks this summer was quite an experience. “Silent Spring Institute is a partnership of scientists, physicians, public health advocates, and community activists united around the common goal of identifying and changing the links between the environment and women's health, especially breast cancer.” The office is small, only ten people, but those ten people are some of the most dedicated and hard working people I have ever met. I guess you have to be when you’re work is funded by grants and your state has just cut most breast cancer research funding, which happened in Massachusetts this last spring.

Needless to say at times things in the office were a bit tense. Julia Brody, the executive director at Silent Spring, had numerous frustrating days after returning from the state house and getting no where. However, I just found out that the Institute received a $10,000 grant from the Babylon Breast Cancer Coalition in New York.

I think I definitely reached my goals of getting to know more in-depth how a small non-profit environmental agency runs. The Institute was a great place for me to learn more not only because everyone in the office was so great but because they were all so happy to have me there. Helping them out with things from organizing pdf files in their database to updating the website as well as gearing up for the big summer fundraiser were all great experiences. Although somewhat boring at times (labeling, sealing and stamping over 900 envelopes) I knew that all the work I was doing was greatly needed because basically there was no one else to do it so that always seemed to make whatever I was doing much more valid.

Most of what I did was help organize the pdf files. This involved going through journal articles and then making sure those matched up with what had been put into the database. In addition to organizing the pdf files I also helped add many more. The Institute receives about 25 different journals and magazines so another part of my job was to go through older journals where certain articles of possible interest had been marked. Then I would skim the article to make sure it would be of importance to the office, cut it out, create another file, fill in all the article and journal information, add the file into the database, then put the actual article into the large file cabinet. Each article fits under a certain heading, so every single folder in the file cabinet was labeled from A-Z. So a folder could be named “breast cancer- male” or “endocrine disruptors.” Most articles clearly fit into a folder, but some weren’t always clear which posed a slight problem but all I usually had to do was ask Caitlin, my main mentor, her opinion.

The internship was only part time so time and the amount I could do was definitely limited, especially due to the fact that during the last two and a half weeks I was mostly helping out with the fundraiser that happened at the end of July. So, in short, a list of my daily activities: monitoring newspaper websites searching for up to date news on breast cancer and other issues the Institute studies, such as PCBs, endocrine disruptors, phthalates, male breast cancer, creating and organizing pdf files, copying things here and there, updating their website links, helping organize the fundraiser (checking over guest lists, putting together the invitations, stamping, sealing, and labeling envelopes, and organizing received acceptances and checks from patrons).
I really can’t say that there were any real negatives to my internship. In a way I wish I could have had more time since I only got about a quarter of the way through the pdf files and could have done more work on the website. Of course there is the occasional tediousness but I think that comes with most internships so I can’t say that was bad because it’s not unusual from time to time.

I can’t really recommend anything other than just always asking what you can do. Especially being in an intern position there is almost definitely things to be done at all times so it’s almost impossible for you to ever be doing nothing. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you’re unsure of something. An upbeat attitude is always appreciated as well as an enthusiasm for the work you’re doing; knowing that you will have to do the occasional tedious work helps a lot when it finally comes along.

I guess I really lucked out with Silent Spring because they’re whole organization is based on two things that highly interest me- the environment and breast cancer. Furthermore, some of the work they’ve done and some of their findings have been incredible as well as immensely eye-opening (for instance women who live in Cape Cod have a 15% higher chance of getting breast cancer than anywhere else in Massachusetts). It was really great to be able to work at the Institute this summer as well as get to know all the issues they’ve been studying over the years better. They just recently had findings from their study of household contaminants published and have already had numerous newspapers print stories on their findings. Hopefully Silent Spring will be able to continue on for many years and continue to work on explaining some of the pressing environmental issues of our time.