Nursing Student Represents TCU During WHO Internship


Crysta Coomer

Crysta Coomer, a TCU Nursing student, poses in front of the World Health Organization in Geneva during a 2017 summer internship. Coomer spent six weeks working with the Key Populations and Preventions Team.

By Holly Farason

Senior nursing student Crysta Coomer always knew she wanted to make an impact on the lives of others. It all began on a mission trip to the Bahamas where she worked with an organization called the All Saints Aids Camp, helping those suffering from AIDS.

“I had never been so happy in my entire life and I loved helping people and I realized in that moment I wanted to do something to help others in my career,” Coomer said.

In addition to this mission trip, Coomer shared a personal experience where she saw firsthand how much of an impact nurses have on a patient’s life. She said that in this experience she realized that good nurses help patients get through their illness and help with the healing process.

“That’s what I wanted to do, I wanted to impact the lives of others and just help others through nursing and caring for people,” Coomer said.

In the summer of 2017, she got the opportunity to put her dreams into action when she landed an internship with the World Health Organization in Switzerland. There, she spent six weeks working with the key populations and preventions team within the HIV and AIDS department, helping with various research projects.

One project that is of interest to Coomer looked at the nurse’s role in voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention within southern and eastern Africa. Coomer said she plans on using this research as her senior honors project. Another project dealt with gathering data on adults, young girls, and young women within southern and eastern Africa. The goal of this project was to examine how they are being reached for HIV and AIDS care and what factors could be improved on.

Coomer said that a typical day consisted of showing up at 9 a.m., checking her email, doing research for projects, having lunch, then going back to the computer for more research until 5 p.m.

During her internship, she and other interns regularly attended seminars held by departments within the WHO. These seminars consisted of current projects and their findings and hearing guest speakers. Coomer said that one seminar was held by a professor from a university in Texas who spoke about his research regarding the lack of sexual education for adolescents in public schools in Texas.

During her time there, Coomer got to see the transferring of power from former WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan to the new WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

“This was in the middle of my internship and they had a big going away party for Dr. Chan and then a welcome party for Dr. Tedros,” Coomer said. “It was really cool to have been there and experienced this.”

In her spare time, Coomer did a lot of travelling on the weekend. She visited Interlaken, Amsterdam, London, Scotland, and Ireland.

“I had never been abroad before, so I think just being abroad has opened up my perspective on the world and it makes the world seem like a much smaller place and so I think being abroad and interacting with people from all over the world was just really eye opening,” she said.

Coomer also mentioned how this internship has strengthened her people skills and interacting with people different from herself. She said she has learned to connect and network with others and feels this will take her very far in her career.

As for her plans after graduation, she is unsure what kind of nurse she wants to become but has thought about becoming a nurse anesthetist and getting into an ICU setting. This semester she is taking an oncology elective and a critical care clinical and feels she will have a better idea of what she wants to do when the semester is over.

Regarding her time in Switzerland, Coomer feels appreciative.

“I’m just so grateful for the opportunity and if it weren’t for TCU, I wouldn’t have been able to go so that’s the best thing,” Coomer said. “It’s made my college experience a billion times better.”