What attracted you to this internship?
I loved that the EVMS Summer Scholars program had so many different projects to choose from and that working at a medical school would be a new and exciting experience. I also liked that I would be working with about 30 other scholars, which made me feel less intimidated.
How did you learn about it?
Through my dad. He works at Optima Health, and he heard about this program through his colleagues at EVMS, which is 45 minutes away from my house.
What gave you an edge in landing this internship?
Having past research experience at W&L definitely helped. I had spent a summer working for Dr. Woodzicka (professor of psychology), doing research that was similar to what I would be doing at EVMS. I also think the fact that my dad knew people at EVMS helped. They could put a face to my name, and since they knew and trusted my dad, they probably had a better idea of what I would bring to their program.
Describe your daily duties.
I get to EVMS at 9 a.m. and walk over to the Children's Hospital of the King's Daughter in Norfolk where I give out surveys to adolescents in the General Academics Pediatrics clinic. In order to see all the adolescents that come through, I must talk to the doctors and residents so that they can let me know when I can enter the rooms and if the adolescents have any problems or conditions that I should know about. On Tuesdays and Thursdays I also give out surveys to adults at the Western Tidewater clinic in Suffolk and the Sentara ACC and HOPES clinics in Norfolk. After working at the clinics, I enter data on Excel, meet with my advisor and other scholars, attend presentations given by EVMS professors and analyze the data collected from the four safety-net clinics.
What are some tasks/projects you've been working on?
I work with Dr. Ferguson and three other scholars on her project on surveying the patient experience for caregivers in low-income families in an academic pediatric primary-care practice. We survey adults and adolescents from low-income families to get a better understanding of their experience at the clinics have been so far. After we give out our surveys and analyze them this summer, the Transformative Education Advancing Community Health (TEACH) initiative will be implemented, which involves training inter-professional teams of primary health-care providers to practice and lead in transformed health-care systems to improve patient access, quality of care and cost effectiveness. After this TEACH initiative, surveys will be administered a second time, and the effect of the initiative will be reviewed. If successful, the initiative will be implemented in other health-care systems.
Have any courses and/or professors helped you prepare for this internship? Which ones?
Taking psychology statistics classes helped me a lot. I was way ahead of the other scholars since I had already had experience using Qualtrics, Excel and SPSS. My basic knowledge of statistical terms and tests also came in handy. In addition, I had experience presenting academic posters through some of my other psychology classes at W&L. My individual research projects with Dr. Fulcher (professor of psycology) and Dr. Woodzicka definitely helped prepare me for this internship, since those projects involved human participants, institutional review board proposals and data analyses.
What do you hope to learn by the end of your experience?
I have already learned so much about the medical world. Even though I never plan on attending medical school, I am glad that I chose to work here. I hope to talk to more psychology professors and advisors here and learn about all of my options for graduate schools and the programs that I can apply to before the summer ends.
What was your favorite part or perk of the internship?
I definitely enjoyed working behind the scenes with the doctors. When I found out that I would be giving out surveys, I figured I would be giving them out in the waiting rooms. However, I had the opportunity to interact with the patients in the privacy of their examination rooms after they had seen residents and doctors.They were all different, but they all ran smoothly and handled a ton of patients who were struggling financially. My favorite part was going out of my comfort zone and talking to these patients about personal experiences and the various problems they were struggling with.
What did you learn from living in the city where the internship was located?
Since I live in Virginia Beach, I actually just commuted to Norfolk every morning and didn't live there. However, working at the clinics allowed me to see the city in a different way. There are so many families in the city who are struggling to make ends meet, and I'm so glad that they have these free safety-net clinics.
What key takeaways/skills will you bring back to W&L?
I have realized that I take a lot of my blessings for granted. The patients I work with are often struggling to hold down several jobs and have let their health or their kid's health slip. It's hard for those with low incomes to even think about their health since they have so many other problems to deal with. I had so many meaningful conversations with the patients and learned a lot. I will always be cognizant that some people may not be as fortunate as I am, and I will always try to help people as best I can.
What advice would you give to students interested in a position like this?
Apply early and try to get some research experience before applying for the internship so that you are a better applicant. Also, look at the program projects offered for the year and make sure you are really interested in at least three of them. Reach out to the professors whose projects you're interested in, and let them know that you will be applying. Ask questions to show them how interested you are.
Has this experience influenced your career aspirations? How so?
I had not even considered a job in the medical field before this, but now I think I would actually enjoy it. Being with the doctors and seeing how much help they were giving to these patients was inspiring. It's too late to change my major, and psychology is definitely still my top choice, but I'm glad I explored this field. I also got to be around lots of kids with disabilities and birth disorders, which makes me even more positive that I want to work with them in the future.
Describe your experience in a single word.