Daniel Howell, Public Health
“I knew I made the right choice before I even arrived at UMass Lowell. But it was reaffirmed when my professors made a point of steering me toward real-world experience.”
When Daniel Howell worked at the City of Lowell Health Department, a powerful epidemic was tightening its grip.
It was spring 2016, and Massachusetts was losing four people a day to opioid drug overdoses. What could a college intern do in the face of such a crisis?
Howell - a competitor in the world of powerlifting in his personal time - described himself as "pumped" to do what he could. He was also prepared.
"I decided to reach out to the Lowell Health Department," says Howell, a graduate student
in UMass Lowell's public health
program. "I was interested in the work they do, what was going on in the state with drug abuse, opioid abuse, substance abuse. I wanted the ability to have a more hands-on approach to things, to test the skills I've learned in the classroom."
He got the gig and rose to the occasion.
Howell, who also earned a bachelor's degree in public health at UMass Lowell, inherited his parents' heart for helping people.
But his college career taught him how to use it effectively. He had originally planned to major in psychology
, but a community health class in his freshman year changed that.
"The longer it went on, the more interest I had," he says. "I learned you can have a huge effect on people. I got interested in sickness and illness prevention."
His coursework gave him the knowledge he'd need to work in the public health profession. His internship gave him the opportunity to apply that know-how and develop a more complete perspective.
"I knew I made the right choice before I even arrived at UMass Lowell," says Howell. "But it was reaffirmed when my professors made a point of steering me toward real-world experience. It's not just books that matter. The internship put me in the middle of what I was learning in class and reinforced it."
While at the Lowell Health Department, he helped run a forum addressing opioid abuse. Police and health workers spoke to parents and families to explain what they are up against.
The forum drew a large crowd, some of whom had been ignorant of the crisis all around them.
"You might think everyone is aware of opioids and addiction, but it's not true," says Howell. "And it's not a problem that affects a certain group of people. We as a community are all affected one way or another. And we have to stop looking at addiction as a choice. It's a disease."