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Public Health Program


SCU Senior Helps Create Accessible Healthcare Policy

Internship supported by VGPHLP and CAS REAL Program

Internship supported by VGPHLP and CAS REAL Program

Nicole Beltran rose garden background

By Michaela Pernetti ’19

Nicole Beltran ’19 (Public Health) dreamed of studying at Santa Clara University since she first visited the campus with her sister in eighth grade. Now a senior, the Hacienda Heights native has minors in Spanish, biology, and sociology to complement her primary study in public health, which she utilized this past summer with a REAL-sponsored internship at Santa Clara Valley Health and Hospital Systems (SCVHHS) under the Valeriote Goldman Public Health Leadership Project.

A leadership-based fellowship-internship that is administered by the REAL Program, the Valeriote Goldman Public Health Leadership Program combines weekly seminars during the school year with a summer internship and mentorship program.

For Beltran’s internship, she worked with René Santiago, the director of SCVHHS, who mentored her in her work in making policy to expand health care coverage and its accessibility in Santa Clara County, particularly for low-income populations. While at SCVHHS, Beltran developed presentations for the executive board on current and possible public health programs and participated in hands-on programs such as shadowing the Public Health Outreach Specialist to pass out hygiene kits to the local homeless population.

As she reflected on her internship experience, Beltran noted that much of her work at SCVHHS helped her step out of her comfort zone. Interacting with public health professionals and members of the community in need challenged her to apply much of her coursework to real-life situations.

Beltran credits Santa Clara University with the foundation for her work and appreciates how SCU and the Department of Public Health are oriented toward actual public health interventions. She appreciates Public Health Sciences faculty such as Sonja Mackenzie, Jamie Chang and Lisa Osteraas for truly caring about their students. “It’s really great to have an environment where people...are there to push you to be the best you can be.”

She also notes, “I’ve been motivated by my [SCU] peers to branch out and take different opportunities, which has really impacted me as a person.”


About the REAL Program

The College of Arts and Sciences developed the REAL Program to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields. We believe financial means should not determine whether or not a student can participate in internships, research, or creative works opportunities. Committed to providing paid experiential learning opportunities for students, the REAL program provides stipends up to $5,000 for undergraduate opportunities lasting up to 10 weeks over the summer. In 2018, its first year, the REAL Program distributed $550,000 to over 125 students.

For more information about the REAL Program, email

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Valeriote Goldman Symposium: Public Health & Social Justice