Thank you for your interest in serving as an Intern with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), the Regional Office of the World Health Organization (WHO) for the Americas. The Organization's technical units (and occasionally its administrative offices) do accept a few of the many individuals who volunteer their services in this manner each year. The distinction made between internship and volunteer assignments is that Interns are actually full time university students while Volunteers are professionals not currently enrolled full time at a college or university.
Under PAHO/WHO regulations, no remuneration is offered to Interns or Volunteers. Also, such individuals cannot be relatives of staff members of PAHO or WHO. Internships are normally for a specific period of time ranging from 6 weeks to 3 months and individuals can only participate once as an Intern. They should be engaged in a course of study (normally at the Master's degree level) related to health work. Volunteer assignments can be for longer periods and there is no "one time" restriction.
Both interns and volunteers must confirm in writing that they, or their sponsor, will meet all expenses for travel and subsistence and that they have adequate health insurance coverage, whether their assignment is in the United States or in another member country. The Organization does provide Interns and Volunteers with a group work-related accident insurance policy but it only provides limited compensation in the case of accidental disablement or death. The coverage of medical expenses resulting from work-related accidents is also limited. The Organization does not process requests for visas for such assignments. Interns who would like to serve in a country other than the one where they are domiciled should inquire what visa is required by the country where they intend to undertake the internship.
PAHO's Headquarters are located in Washington D.C. The Organization also has offices in all the countries of North, Central and South America as well as the Caribbean. Most individuals who work for the Organization are bilingual, usually Spanish & English, Portuguese & English or Spanish & Portuguese. Although not required for a successful internship, having one of these combinations of languages would be quite useful. Generally, it is best if the individual has a good working knowledge of the language of the country where they will serve.
If you are interested in applying for an internship somewhere other than the America's Region (North, Central and South America and the Caribbean) please access the WHO web site at: http://www.who.int/. Once there go to the last label on the left hand side of the page and click on "Employment", and on the next screen click on "Interns".
So, how does one apply for an internship with PAHO? You need to make an impression on the right individual. Think carefully about what background, education and skills you have to offer and what specific area of work you are interested in pursuing. Once you have a good idea of this, investigate our web site to become familiar with the Organization.
Click on the "About PAHO" section in the lower left part of the page and then click on the "What is PAHO?" page. Back at "About PAHO" page click on the "PAHO Structure: Organigram" to see the names and codes (PED, FCH/CA, etc) of our technical units. Note the name of the unit where you think your services could best be utilized. If you are interested in working in an office outside Washington, D.C., go to the "Headquarters and Country Offices" link which takes you to a map with the names of the countries where the Organization has offices. Clicking on the country name will provide contacting information for that office and that is where you would direct your request.
Once you have identified the area of work that interests you, write directly to either: the "Area Manager" (FCH, SDE, etc.), the "Unit Chief" (FCH/IM, SDE/RA, etc) or the "PAHO/WHO Representative" in the country office and offer your services. Your letter should be brief, perhaps one page in length, and specify exactly what services you are offering and why you consider your background would be useful to the Organization. Remember, although an internship or volunteer assignment will provide you with hands-on experience in a very prestigious international organization, the professional staff are very much involved in their technical cooperation work and do not have the time to take someone under their wing unless that person clearly knows what they want to achieve and their vision fits in with the main areas of specialization of that unit. Include a detailed curriculum vitae which indicates your education, skills and language proficiency.
Thank you again for considering the Pan American Health Organization as a place where you might possibly want to undertake an internship and all the best in your future endeavors, regardless of the path you choose.
Regional Office for the Americas of the World Health Organization