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.
An intern is an individual who meets the following criteria:
- is at least twenty years of age on the date of application;
- is enrolled in a master's or in a doctoral program; are in the final year of a bachelor's program; or have graduated within the last six months from a bachelor's, master's or doctoral program;
- is fluent in at least one of the working languages of the office of assignment;
- is not related to a staff member as defined in Staff Rule 410.3 (i.e., spouse, children, parents, and siblings of the staff member or the children, parents, and siblings of the staff member's spouse);
- has not previously participated in PAHO/WHO's internship program at the same location in the Region of the Americas or at WHO;
- has strong writing, research, and organizational skills to support technical cooperation efforts;
- is able to work independently and demonstrate initiative and flexibility to effectively benefit from an internship at PAHO.
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 a minimum of eight weeks up to a maximum of six months.
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.
A practicumis 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 six months.
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 communications, external relations, or human resources.
PAHO/WHO may offer an internship to students who meet the following criteria:
- are at least twenty years of age on the date of application;
- are enrolled in a master's or in a doctoral program; are in the final year of a bachelor's program; or have graduated within the last six months from a bachelor's, master's or doctoral program;
- are fluent in at least one of the working languages of the office of assignment;
- are not related to a staff member as defined in Staff Rule 410.3 (i.e., spouse, children, parents, and siblings of the staff member or the children, parents, and siblings of the staff member's spouse);
- have not previously participated in PAHO/WHO's internship program at the same location in the Region of the Americas or at WHO;
- have strong writing, research, and organizational skills to support technical cooperation efforts;
- are able to work independently and demonstrate initiative and flexibility to effectively benefit from an internship at PAHO.
For interns located at PAHO Headquarters in Washington, D.C., the intern must also meet the following criteria:
- is a U.S. Citizen, or
- is a U.S. Legal Permanent Resident, or
- has a valid visa with an Employment Authorization from United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or
- is sponsored by PAHO with a G-4 visa.
- Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status Participating in Curricular Practical Training provide a valid OPT or CPT or,
- Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status with the correct endorsement in the I-20 by the university.
- 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 covered by a group insurance policy which provides compensation in case of death, disablement due to any cause and coverage of medical expenses resulting from accidents or illness that occur within the period of assignment. The premium for accident and illness insurance is paid in its entirety by the Organization.
It is important to note that:
- Any insurance claims must be submitted directly by the intern to the health insurance provider, which will review and process the claim without the involvement of PAHO;
- PAHO assumes no responsibility for non-payment by the health insurance provider of all or part of a claim that may be submitted by the intern;
- PAHO assumes no responsibility or liability with regard to any medical expenses incurred by the intern during the assignment which exceed the amount of the insurance coverage as specified in the health insurance provider policy.
Future Employment at PAHO
Following completion of an internship with PAHO, any subsequent employment with PAHO shall be subject to established recruitment and selection procedures. For recruitment purposes, interns are not considered "internal candidates".
When required, a visa must be obtained by the intern prior to initiating travel to the country/place of work. It is the responsibility of the intern to apply for and obtain the visa on his/her national passport prior to departure. PAHO may assist if there is a PAHO office in the country of departure. Interns who will be working 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 lawfully 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-4 visa prior to commencing their internship. Human Resources Management will provide a letter to the intern for use in applying for a G-4 visa. PAHO will not sponsor a G.4 visa for the dependents of persons working in PAHO under the Organization's internship program.
Interns with the following types of visas are also eligible:
- Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status Participating in Curricular Practical Training (OPT or CPT)
- Foreign Students in F-1 Nonimmigrant Status with the correct endorsement in the I-20
How to apply?
Candidates from across the world are invited to express interest in specific areas of work and organizational locations (regional offices, country offices or headquarters).
All applications should be made through the Global Vacancy Notice posted on the WHO Careers site using the WHO corporate recruitment system (Stellis).
The vacancy notices are opened each year for six months at a time:
- From January to June
- From July to December
As we are updating our recruitment system, the registrations will exceptionally be closed as of 30 June every year. The global vacancy notice will reopen during the month of July.
Please be aware that if you applied for an internship before 30 June of the current year, if you are still interested in an internship with WHO and have not heard anything back from WHO, you will have to reapply once the vacancy re-opens in July.
Internships applications are made available to technical units for review all year round upon request. You are welcome to apply at any time when the vacancy notice is open. A PAHO technical unit can contact you at any time regarding an internship during the six months period when the Global Vacancy Notice is open. The period of time for the review of applications is, therefore, indeterminate. If you do not hear from a PAHO Technical Unit during the first round of openings, you are welcome to reapply during the second period as long as you still meet the eligibility requirements.
If selected for a PAHO Internship, you will be asked to provide proof of enrolment in a course of studies and proof of personal medical insurance (illness) coverage (which must include the United States if applying for an internship in Washington D.C.). Do not send these or other documents until specifically asked to do so.
All applications for PAHO Internships are made available to technical units for review upon request. The period of time for this review is indeterminate. You will not be informed of the status of your application. If you do not hear from a PAHO technical unit within 1-2 months after the application closing date, you can assume that you will not be considered for a PAHO internship at this point.
PAHO Internships are not paid. Be aware that living in the Americas region, and Washington D.C. in particular, can be expensive, and finding accommodation can be challenging. Past interns have financed their internships through scholarships programs. Please note, however, that PAHO is not in a position to sign any agreements, proposed or required by a sponsor, university or equivalent institution.
PAHO does NOT charge for internships so beware of any programs that "facilitate" your obtaining an internship but require payment.
If selected for an internship and you are identifying accommodation in Washington D.C., beware of scams; we recommend that you do not make advance payments or provide deposits prior to your arrival.