Project Description

Public Health Internships in South Africa

Public Health Internship Program in South Africa

During a public health internship abroad in South Africa with VACorps, you will work alongside qualified healthcare professionals in conducting epidemiological research, assessing access to care in South Africa, research, data collection, and education outreach programs in the community. South Africa faces many serious healthcare issues, including high rates of HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, and more recently, COVID-19. As a participant of the VACorps Public Health Internships Program, you will receive additional mentorship from our Program Manager, Dr. Takiyah White Ndwanya.

Public health internship in South Africa
Public health internship program in South Africa with VACorps
Public health internship in South Africa - internship fieldwork

This is a structured immersion internship with additional supervision and support. The objective is to provide you with a hands-on public health internship abroad in South Africa.


The VACorps Public Health Internship Program is a structured internship facilitated by our Public Health Program Manager, Dr. Takiyah White Ndwanya, an epidemiologist from the United States who is currently working as an infectious disease consultant in South Africa. Through a combination of mentorship, discussion, reflection, and hands-on practical experience in the field of public health, the program will deliver an immersive experience. You will develop practical skills coinciding with theory learned in university while acquiring an understanding of how public health shapes health in ‘key populations’ in South Africa.

South Africa is a diverse environment to gain first-hand experience of the challenges faced by vulnerable populations in health and, in particular, infectious diseases. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has disproportionately affected sub-Saharan Africa compared to other countries globally. The World Bank considers South Africa as an ‘upper-middle-income’ economy, but many of its citizens continue to live in abject poverty. South Africa hosts many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) working to eliminate health disparities and co-morbidities of HIV/AIDS and TB and now the emergence of COVID-19, making it an ideal place for a public health internship.

The Internship Experience:

During the internship component of the program, you will be placed with local organizations that work in public health settings to reduce the health burdens faced by South Africans. You will work directly with service providers and populations affected by communicable and non-communicable diseases. You will gain exposure to the challenges faced by health institutions, NGOs, and the people they serve. The program manager will work with you to create specific internship objectives and projects with your local organization supervisor. As a team, we will develop and create tools to address challenges and concerns facing the organization and its clients.

Examples of public health internship work:

  • Assistance with administrative duties (i.e., marketing, social media, fundraising initiatives, report writing).
  • Monitoring and evaluation of infectious disease (HIV/TB/COVID-19) cases in townships throughout the Klipfontein districts in Cape Town.
  • University Work/Affiliations.
  • Assist Dr. White Ndwanya with projects that she is currently working on at the time of your internship.
  • Assist Dr. White Ndwanya with lectures/working with South African university students (undergraduate and graduate students).

Potential Research Projects:

  • Mixed methods research on community-based organizations providing health services beyond HIV in Eastern and Southern Africa funded by an International organization.
  • Project management of a ‘blitz’ HIV testing project and contract tracing of HIV loss to follow-up patients.
  • Assistance with workshops and training of health providers/workers.
  • Abstract writing for projects during data analysis.
  • Grant writing for funding for future projects.

Internship Schedule and Time Commitment:

Internships will be five days a week (Monday through Friday), from 09h00 – 17h00, or 08h00 – 16h00, with the exception of a half-day on Fridays to allow interns to participate in VACorps Weekly Meet-Ups. Placements rely heavily on the work of interns, so it will be important for you to treat your internship as if it were a job.


In addition to the general orientation program provided by VACorps, participants of our Public Health Internship Program will receive a special 1-day orientation that is facilitated by the program manager. The content will cover topics specifically related to the public health landscape in South Africa and provide guidance on how to get the most out of your internship experience.

During your internship, you will be indirectly supervised by the Program Manager and are therefore expected to take initiative to identify ways you can contribute, especially in areas of career interest.

Examples of what you will learn during this program:

  • Become familiar with South Africa’s healthcare system
  • Assessment of South Africa’s primary care healthcare needs
  • Gain a unique understanding of HIV/AIDS and the TB epidemic in South Africa
  • Study the impact of COVID-19 on at-risk communities in South Africa
  • Shadow and interact with established public health professionals
  • Work directly in the communities that you will be serving during your internship
  • Conduct health research, provide technical support and partake in information
    dissemination workshops
  • Qualitative and quantitative health analysis
  • Conduct and create surveys to better assess the quality of care patients receive
  • Discover a new culture and the health-related challenges South Africans face
  • Understand the inner-working of a healthcare NPO

Meet the program leader

Dr. Takiyah White Ndwanya, originally from Washington, D.C., is a public health professional specializing in Infectious Diseases. She has a background in education and research and has used her talents to work in educational leadership, administration of public health programs, and monitoring and evaluation of epidemiologic interventions. Although Takiyah enjoys working as a researcher, lecturer/adjunct professor, and public health educator, she believes in being philanthropic. Focusing on philanthropy has led her to work with her mother to start an organization in 2012 to assist and support students in her home country of the United States and South Africa. The Donald White/Mandla A. Ndwanya Memorial Fund is a charitable, non-profit organization registered in the United States and South Africa that provides uniforms and shoes to elementary students in Cape Town South Africa and Indianapolis, Indiana (USA), scholarships to new and continuing students in America, and bursaries to new students to attend university in South Africa. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic affecting the township of Nyanga, where the organization works to support disadvantaged students, it has begun a feeding scheme to provide food distribution to children in the neighborhood. The work of the organization can be found at and here on Facebook.

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Meet past participants:

Carley Adams, Ontario, Canada, (2023)

Carley is a recent MSc graduate of the University of Edinburgh, specializing in Medical Anthropology. She joined the VACorps Program in January 2023 and participated in a public health internship.  "Cape Town is such [...]

Weenta Yacob, California, USA (2022)

Weenta (pictured on the right) is studying for a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Human Biology and Society.  She joined to VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a public health internship at [...]

Gabriel Reuter, California, USA (2022)

Gabriel is studying at the University of California, San Diego pursuing a Bachelor's Degree in Global Health. He joined the VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a public health internship at an [...]

Sam Henry, Texas, United States (2022)

Samantha is studying for a BA in anthropology at Trinity University. She joined the VACorps program in June 2022, and participated in a public health internship at an NGO supporting women and children.  "The [...]

Alexa Buten, New York, USA (2022)

Alexa is studying for a BSc in Biology and Society at Cornell University. She joined the VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a public health internship at a public clinic.   "One of [...]

Amber Bode, Virginia, USA (2022)

Amber is studying a BSc with a double major in Kinesiology and Sociology at William and Mary University. She joined the VACorps program in June 2022 and participated in a public health internship. "I [...]

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