The pandemic may have closed some doors to in-person opportunities for students, but it opened a big one for Merna Ghallab, who gained invaluable training as a COVID-19 contact tracing intern and team lead for Los Angeles County — all while working from her home 7,590 miles away in Cairo, Egypt.

“It was the perfect opportunity to challenge myself to speak with people and to step out of my shell,” said Ghallab, MPH, whose experience fulfilled the practicum requirement for her master’s degree in public health. When everything shut down, Ghallab’s family returned to Egypt. The remote nature of the contact tracing internship was ideal and worked with her new time zone. “It was an incredible experience to learn how to interact with people and their ideas, especially with a sensitive topic like COVID-19.”

Ghallab, who graduated last week, was part of an interdepartmental group of 24 students from USC’s Master of Public Health and Master of Social Work programs that provided roughly 3,000 hours of contact tracing services through an internship program at the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health.

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