A Postcard From: Catherine Bunza ’18

Name: Catherine Bunza
Class Year: 2018
Major: Growth & Structure of Cities
Hometown: Ridgewood, N.J.

Internship Placement: New York Presbyterian Hospital and Columbia University Medical Center
Job Title: Data Analyst Intern, Population Oral Health
Location: New York, N.Y.

What’s happening at your internship?

At NYPH and CUMC, I am extremely excited to have jumped on board with staff in Population Oral Health in conducting research in finding a correlation between the growth of hookah lounges and stores in Northern Manhattan with the recent influx of gentrifying populations in those neighborhoods. Hookah, also known as shisha, nargile, hubble-bubble, or waterpipe, is an alternative tobacco product that is commonly flavored and smoked socially. It remains largely unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration despite recent federal efforts to ban flavored tobacco. Hookah use is on the rise within younger populations, as using hookah has nearly 36 times more nicotine and higher concentrations of heavy metals than cigarettes. Although smoking of cigarettes has been steadily decreasing within younger populations, in recent years, there has been a surprising increase in the purchasing and utilizing of hookah and hookah paraphernalia within the population of young Dominican men in Northern Manhattan, especially in the Inwood, Washington Heights, and Central Harlem neighborhoods. In my internship, I have also had the opportunity to learn how to use GIS (Geographic Spatial Information) for analyzing relevant data sets. By using and transforming data in GIS, I have been able to establish relationships with this growth in hookah use and hookah stores in specific neighborhoods in Northern Manhattan.

Why did you apply for this internship?

I am interested in evaluating how the health of populations are influenced by other factors, particularly social determinants of health, within urban environments. This position at NYPH and CUMC has given me the opportunity to expand my knowledge of how social determinants of health influence urban populations, especially when evaluating new trends in these populations. I have also never had the opportunity to engage with this topic of smoking and alternative smoking trends in previous courses at Bryn Mawr and within the consortiums, so to be able to obtain hands-on experience in this field has been immensely valuable to my future studies in public health.

What is something you have learned from your internship that you didn’t expect?

When starting this internship, I did not expect the severity of hookah use within younger populations and the severity of infiltration of hookah use in Northern Manhattan neighborhoods. It is important to understand the shift in smoking trends, as hookah and alternative tobacco use will become an increasing problem for youths as most people do not understand the health effects of hookah. In fact, nearly 72 percent of teens do not understand the damaging health effects of hookah use and many teens believe it is socially acceptable to smoke it.

Can you talk about the skills you are learning and why they are important to you?

During my summer internship, I have gained invaluable skills within this field of public health, particularly in how to compartmentalize my work and how to become more attentive to detail, as I am working with specific data sets of populations and neighborhoods. Additionally, I had the opportunity to learn GIS, where I was able to learn the operating system and how to apply the mapping of hookah and alternative tobacco use stores within this system for analysis.