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Promoting Public Health’s Future Leaders

PAHO interns at a briefing at the Organization of the American States (OAS) - Summer 2009

The development of leaders in international public health is essential to carry out this mission.  PAHO is committed to provide an enriching experience for those young professionals who choose to join us in this endeavor.

Dr. Carissa F. Etienne
PAHO  Director

The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) recognizes the importance of a new generation of public health leaders who have an understanding of global health issues and the role of international organizations in achieving the Millennium Development Goals MDGs and other health issues. In this regard, the PAHO Internship and Practicum Program (IPP) aims to train young and energetic individuals entering the field of public health and who are interested in providing services to the Organization on a voluntary basis.  PAHO interns/volunteers are matched with appropriate technical or administrative programs based on their personal interests and skills. Placements opportunities include PAHO Headquarters in Washington DC, PAHO Country Offices, as well as the Pan American Centers in the North and South America or in the Caribbean region.


Interns/Internship vs. Volunteers/Practicum

While trainees are either interns or volunteers, it is important to distinguish one from the other.

Interns at the World Bank - Summer 2007

An intern is an individual who is at least 20 years old, completing the last year of an undergraduate program or enrolled in a course of study relevant to PAHO’s work at a graduate or post-graduate level; and who agrees to provide assistance to PAHO/WHO without remuneration. Interns do not have the status of PAHO/WHO staff members and cannot represent the Organization in any official capacity.  Click for more information on internships here.

An Internship is an arrangement between PAHO/WHO and an intern (student) whereby an individual's educational experience is enhanced through practical assignments and exposure to the work of the Organization. Internships are not intended for work of a continuing and/or operational nature, nor for work generally performed by a staff member. Internships are approved for a specific period of time, traditionally ranging from two to six months.

Interns at the White House with Josefina Carbonell, the Assistant Secretary for Aging at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – summer 2008

A volunteer is an individual who is at least 20 years old and whose experience and professional background enable her/him to make a valuable contribution to the work of the Organization. She/he is expected to have finished her/his studies.  She/he could be on sabbatical leave from her/his government or her/his employing institution and be available for a clearly defined period. Volunteers do not have the status of PAHO/WHO staff members and cannot represent the Organization in any official capacity. Click for more information on volunteering here.

A practicum is an arrangement between PAHO/WHO and an individual(volunteer) whose experience and professional background would allow him/her to make a contribution to the work of a technical program, could be authorized to carry out specific activities on a voluntary basis on PAHO/WHO premises under the supervision of a staff member. Practicums (volunteers) last between two months and one year.


Who are the Interns/Volunteers?

Interns with Dr. Mirta Roses, PAHO Director – Summer 2008

Participants include both students and young professionals from different cultural, academic, as well as geographic backgrounds with a common interest: a motivation to pursue a career in supporting public health. Interns/volunteers come from the region of the, Africa, and Asia. We had interns/volunteers from Peru, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, Saudi Arabia, Romania, Turkey, Japan, Jamaica to name a few. They are from various academic backgrounds, from international politics, political sciences, computer sciences, marketing finances, biology, journalism and public health, to political communications and video editing. Language variety is enormous among PAHO interns/volunteers, including the four PAHO official languages (English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French); but also Arabic, German, Hungarian, Mandarin, Polish, Romanian and Urdu, etc.

Most individuals who work for the Organization are bilingual, usually Spanish &English, Portuguese & English or Spanish & Portuguese. Although this is not a requirement for a successful internship, having one of these language combinations is quite useful. Generally, it is best if the individual is fluent in the working language of the country of assignment. 


What are the Interns/Volunteers’ projects?

Intern, Jessica Steele working with Dr. Barbara Jauregui and Dr. Jon Andrus, PAHO Deputy Director

Although internships are unpaid, trainees are well rewarded with the interesting tasks and projects they are assigned, which call upon their writing, organizational, communication and research skills. Previous projects included the production and publication of a report titled “Social Protection in Schemes for Mother, Newborn, and Child Populations”; the design of a stress management workshop for hospital staff in Belize; the redaction of a research paper on Preliminary Community Assessment in Ecuador; the production of a written assessment on Caribbean Chronic Care Collaborative for Anguilla, Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados, Grenada, and St. Lucia.





The purpose of the internship

  • to provide a structural framework to match trainees from diverse academic backgrounds with a PAHO technical or administrative program in which their educational experience will be enhanced through practical assignments;
  • to expose trainees to the work and goals of PAHO, and increase their knowledge and understanding of the Organization’s mission;
  • to provide PAHO programs with invaluable input from the trainees’ various perspectives and specializations. Most students are placed in health-related programs, although other disciplines can be considered such as Information technology or Finances if appropriate.




  • Minimum age of 20 years old.
  • Enrolled in a program as a senior undergraduate, graduate or post graduate, with a concentration in a field relevant to PAHO’s work in particular:  Public Health, Management, Business, International Affairs, Latin American studies, or related health or social science areas.
  • Have strong writing, research, and organizational skills to support technical cooperation efforts.
  • Able to work independently and demonstrate initiative and flexibility.
  • Strong team orientation;
  • Communicate effectively orally and in writing.
  • Show willingness to learn from mistakes.
  • Produce and deliver quality results.
  • Respect and promote difference.
  • Able to work in a multi-cultural environment.
  • Be fluent in the working language of the duty station to which they would be assigned and who have a working knowledge of another official language of the Organization (English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French).
  • Have health insurance coverage.
  • Not have previously participated in PAHO/WHO's internship/practicum program.
  • Not have any relatives of active staff working at PAHO/WHO (HQ, country offices, or Centers).  Under the Staff regulations relatives are defined as:

      A. Subject to Staff Rule 110.7.3: The term “immediate family member” means the spouse, children, parents, and siblings of the staff member and the children, parents and siblings of the staff member’s spouse.

      B. Persons closely related by blood or by marriage to a staff member shall not normally be appointed if another equally qualified person is available. Persons closely related by blood or marriage include an immediate family member, as defined in Rule 110.7.3, and grandparents, grandchildren, uncles, aunts, nieces, and nephews, as well as any step-relatives, of the staff member or his or her spouse - Staff Rule 410.3.1

    • The same requirements  except that Volunteers should have finished their studies and their experience and professional background enable them to make a valuable contribution to the work of the Organization.


    Payment, Liability, Insurance

    Under PAHO regulations, no provision is made for remuneration of interns/volunteers. All costs connected with internships must therefore be borne by the interns or their sponsoring institutions or governments. This includes costs relating to travel, living and accommodation (arrangements responsibility of the interns).  The following stipulations should be noted with regard to insurance coverage:

    PAHO accepts no responsibility or liability for costs arising from damages, travel, accident and/or illness incurred during an Internship.

    Interns are therefore asked to submit(in advance), proof of coverage by a medical insurance plan valid for locations in which the internship will take place, as interns are not covered by PAHO Insurance Plan.


    Future Employment at PAHO

    There is no expectation of employment at the end of the internship for Interns/volunteers. Interns/volunteers are not eligible to apply for a post with PAHO- including an Agreement for the Performance of Work, Special Services Agreement, When Actually Employed (WAE) or Consultancy - during the period of internship and for the three months immediately following the internship's expiration date.



    Interns at the PAHO HQ in Washington,DC must be lawfully present and able to participate as interns pursuant to U.S. State Department and USCIS rules and regulations.  Applicants interested in interning at the PAHO HQ in Washington DC who are not already law fully present in the United States in an immigration status which permits him/her to participate as an intern, must apply for and be granted a G-IV visa prior to commencing their internship. Although obtaining a visa is normally the applicant's responsibility, the Area of Human Resources Management will provide him/her with a letter of support if necessary for visa documentation.

    For other type of visa, please contact the Internship and Practicum Coordinator at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it who will advise you as to whether or not your visa is acceptable. 


    Internship and Practicum Program activities at PAHO Washington, D.C.

    Interns and speakers after the panel discussion on “Health and Culture” - Summer 2007


    In addition to specific technical projects,a variety of training and professional development opportunities are provided to trainees. Visits to international organizations such as the World Bank, the Organization of American States(OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) are organized. Trainees also participate in team projects,such as the redaction and publication of the PAHO Internship Newsletter or the organization of a panel discussion on a pressing health issue. 


    How to apply?

    Interns/volunteers should:

    Note that we have only two sessions for interns; therefore, interns should submit their applications as follows:

    • Summer session(June-September): Applications for the Summer Program are accepted between December 1 - January 31 each year.
    • Winter session(December-March): Applications for the Winter Program are accepted between September 1 -October 31 each year.


    Internships and Practicum in PAHO country offices/Pan American Scientific Centers

    Internships and Practicum are also available at the country level.  If interested, please contact the office directly.

    Last Updated on Thursday, 24 July 2014 12:32

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