The Resource Center’s summer intern program gave area students valuable experience in several clinical disciplines, and it may help convince the future health care professionals to start their careers in Chautauqua County.
Collectively Dubbed “The Best Interns Ever” by their mentors at The Resource Center, 12 students had the opportunity to rotate among The Resource Center’s various clinical services – primary care, dental, behavioral health, occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and nursing. The ability to experience different branches of the health care field provided the interns with firsthand observations they would not have gotten had they focused on a single specialty. The passion they witnessed from TRC’s clinical staff caused some of the interns to consider changing their intended medical career path.
In addition, most of the interns were surprised to realize the importance of the billing side of the health care industry – if therapy notes and billing aren’t done correctly, insurance companies will not reimburse providers for services delivered to patients.
Other aspects of the internship provided unexpected learning opportunities. The interns had not realized the scope of health care services offered by The Resource Center. And by working with nurses at TRC’s Intermediate Care Facilities, interns were able to interact with people who have significant intellectual and developmental disabilities.
The pandemic made the internships challenging in that some of TRC’s clinical services were not operating at full capacity. But there were enough opportunities available to make the internships worthwhile for the students as well as the professionals who they shadowed and worked with.
“It was a difficult decision to bring on interns during the current pandemic, but it’s important to provide the students with the internship experience, so we were happy to have been able to accommodate them,” said Dr. Adnan Munir, TRC’s Medical Director, who added that having the interns around reminded him of when he was a student. “I found them all very helpful and a pleasure to work with. I wish them well in their future.”
Nine of the interns came to TRC through a program coordinated by Chautauqua Works. Thanks to a grant from the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation and the Northern Chautauqua Community Foundation, the Chautauqua Works Workforce Investment Board is able to support the creation of a healthcare talent pipeline for the local region. Part of that effort is a college internship program.
“This is our ninth year being able to offer internships specifically for direct patient care in the healthcare field to increase awareness of and interest in our local job opportunities,” said Katie Geise, Executive Director of the Chautauqua Workforce Investment Board, Inc. “Internship programs are a great opportunity for college students to gain experience, but this specific program is also a great opportunity for healthcare-related businesses to start building connections with our future workforce. We have a need to fill healthcare jobs locally, and we need to start building relationships between students and employers now.”
The program increases awareness of local physician opportunities and matches young adults pursuing a career in direct patient care with local health care providers. This allows interns to gain experience, develop relationships and learn about future employment opportunities.
“The end result being that the Interns will consider returning to our area to live, work and raise their families here in Chautauqua County,” Katie said.
During a recent video get-together in which the students gave presentations on summer research projects and shared thoughts on their internship experiences, Linda Swanson, the Sheldon Foundation‘s Executive Director, thanked The Resource Center for giving the students the chance to work at TRC.
“These are just invaluable experiences,” said Swanson, because internships enable students to work in the health care field and learn about career options in Chautauqua County. She said the internship program is succeeding in persuading young health care professionals to return to the area.
“We are bringing kids back. We are keeping them looped in” to the opportunities available locally, she said.
In addition to the nine students from Chautauqua Works, The Resource Center hired three college students to work in TRC Community Health Center. These students spent the summer shadowing clinical and medical providers, assisting with population health and organizing medical records.
“They were a valuable addition to the team, and we wish them well as they continue their studies, which may include additional time at the TRC Community Health Center as part of their final intern programs,” said Heather C. Brown, Assistant Executive Director.
TRC officials were grateful for the opportunity to host the interns, and they shared Katie’s hope that some of these future health care providers will grow their careers locally.
“The Resource Center has been so fortunate to have the students join us for the summer,” Heather said. “This is a critical time in history to be studying to enter the health care field during a global pandemic, and TRC is pleased to be able to provide this opportunity for these bright, young adults in the community.”
Dan Tota, Practice Manager for Health-Related Services and Revenue, was involved with the internship program at his previous job as well. He said having students learn about things such as medical billing helps them understand “every person’s importance in the health care delivery system.”
“Everybody’s been great. They’ve been so helpful,” said Steve Riczker, Primary Care Practice Manager, noting the interns tackled several filing projects that had piled up. As for their future careers, he advised the students to give 100 percent; be passionate as well as compassionate; be responsible; be accountable; and make themselves invaluable.
“Keep your work joyful,” Lisa Smrekar, Dental Practice Manager, told the interns during the wrap-up session. “Stay resilient, and come back and visit us anytime.”
“It has been great having the interns work with us at The Resource Center,” said Michele Albaugh, TRC’s Director of Recruitment, Learning and Development. “Not only have they had the opportunity to learn in a variety of settings from medical records to actual service delivery, but they also were able to talk with wonderful providers that could have an impact on their career choice. We are hopeful that they will choose Chautauqua County as a place to practice their craft upon graduation. More than that, we hope they will choose to look at The Resource Center for employment.”
Here are profiles of some of the interns.
Rhyannon Davis is a sophomore biochemistry major at SUNY Fredonia. The Perrysburg native plans to become a physician, and she wants to practice in the area.
“I have a natural interest in science and I also enjoy working in patient care. I want to apply critical thinking skills in a clinical setting to help individuals have a better quality of life, especially in this area,” Rhyannon said. “I grew up in Western New York and have received healthcare here. Becoming a physician in Western New York would allow me to care for and give back to my community, resulting in a strong local healthcare system.”
She was attracted to the internship at TRC Community Health Center because of the opportunity to rotate among the different service areas.
“I was given several opportunities to intern at different locations this summer. I noticed that The Resource Center provided rotations for interns to experience different healthcare professions. Although, currently, I know medical school is the path for me, I believe that to be a well-informed physician it is important to understand how other areas of healthcare operate. Having exposure to different healthcare professions is truly eye-opening. As a physician, I would want to be able to refer my patients to a place where they can receive the best treatment possible.”
Rhyannon encourages other students to consider an internship at The Resource Center.
“I am happy I chose this internship because it has provided me with the opportunities to see growth in individuals, and being able to be a part of this is incredibly uplifting,” she said. “Please take this opportunity! Even if you are not sure of which path you want to choose in healthcare, this internship will provide you with many different encounters that could help you make your decision. Also, if you already know which path you want to take, please don’t be closed-minded and think that because this internship has rotations it will not pertain to you, because it will pertain to you. It will help you understand how your career path connects to other paths in healthcare. These types of hands-on experiences are what I would strongly recommend for anyone pursuing a career in healthcare.
Hannah Finson is a Lakewood resident who will be entering her junior year at Liberty University. She is majoring in biochemistry and molecular biology, with plans to become an ophthalmologist.
Even before her internship at The Resource Center, Hannah had a lot of knowledge and experience in the local health care field, having spent more than 300 hours doing volunteer work and job shadowing at UPMC Chautauqua. Her experiences observing local eye doctors and volunteering at the Chautauqua Blind Association drew her toward a career as an ophthalmologist.
“I learned that there is great joy in giving someone the gift of sight and assisting patients in achieving visual acuity,” Hannah said.
This summer she has been interning in the Diagnostic and Treatment Center at TRC’s facility on Jones & Gifford Avenue, helping out in the occupational therapy, physical therapy and speech pathology departments. “I really enjoyed shadowing in PT, OT and Speech Pathology,” she said. “The staff was very kind, and I was able to shadow during their appointments. Also, all of the supervisors have been very kind and helpful.”
Hannah found the internship program to be educational and reinforced the fact that there are opportunities for young people to work in the local health care field.
“This internship allows you to experience different healthcare careers in the local area,” she said. “The Resource Center provides many different services and therefore was a great place to experience what working in healthcare in our local area would look like. It was also nice to be able to see different fields of medicine and to explore different career paths.”
Deidra Osula is a Dunkirk native who is enrolled at SUNY Geneseo. She plans to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
With both of her parents working in the medical field, Deidra said she always has been interested in a career in healthcare. At her mother’s suggestion, she shadowed a certified registered nurse anesthetist last summer and decided that was the profession she wanted to join.
“I love the precision and care it takes for the nurses to make sure they are giving their best work every day. The excitement of seeing something new every day was also what made me want to pursue this career.”
Deidra said that before her internship with The Resource Center, she had not been familiar with TRC. A friend told her about the internship program, so Deidra applied. She has enjoyed the internship as well as learning about The Resource Center.
“I have learned a lot from this internship: the importance of screening, connecting with your patients, making sure to document all notes from each appointment, and so much more. I love how this internship allows us to shadow professionals in many different areas of the medical field. It allows us to figure what we will like or may not like for our future careers,” she said. “One of my favorite parts of the internship so far is getting to know the staff and what they do. Everyone is so friendly and are always happy to educate you on their field of knowledge.”
Joshuel Velasco is preparing to enter his third year of studies at Fredonia. A native of Lake Peekskill, NY, he is majoring in biochemistry with hopes of becoming a radiation oncologist. He has been interning with TRC’s Counseling and Psychiatric Services, where he worked under the direction of the program manager and had the opportunity to sit in on a team meeting as well as group and one-on-one counseling sessions.
Joshuel said that while attending the team meeting, “I got to experience firsthand what effective leadership is, how to deliver a message in a clear manner that always ensured a flowing, constructive conversation between all departments involved. This has taught me that with complete transparency, effective leadership and effective communication with my clinical team, I will provide the best possible service for my future patients.”
Sitting in on counseling sessions was even more enlightening. “I got to listen in on personal stories and see emotional vulnerability with my own eyes. Perhaps the most memorable experience in my TRC internship thus far was from one of these sessions. Witnessing this very personal conversation felt as if I was watching two old friends walking through the cosmos, immersed in a conversation that holds an infinite amount of potential turns as the story unfolds.”
Summing up his time at The Resource Center, Joshuel said, “An internship experience at TRC will only be as rich and fulfilling as you make it out to be. The TRC staff is more than happy to share their experiences, stories and connections with you, if you are proactive and show that you are willing to put yourself out there. There is more to the TRC internship experience than just shadowing healthcare professionals. The TRC internship provides a good look into the administrative side of healthcare. By familiarizing yourself with the administrative processes happening behind the scenes, you are more well-equipped to provide the best possible service to your patients as a future physician.”
The other students were:
- Brad Brown, a biochemistry major at Fredonia, who plans to attend SUNY Upstate Medical University and become a physician.
- Sierra Darts, a pre-nursing student at Jamestown Community College.
- Corey Gibson, who earned a psychology degree at the University of Pittsburgh and is attending the school counseling program at Edinboro University. He wants to become an elementary school counselor and a licensed professional counselor.
- Alexa Huntington, a social work major at Fredonia, who plans to become a school social worker.
- Michel Padilla, a University at Buffalo student majoring in biomedical sciences and psychology. His goal is to become a plastic surgeon.
- Kara Triscari, a sophomore at John Carroll University, who plans to major in biology and become a nurse practitioner who treats children.
- Paige Turcotte, a psychology and biology student at SUNY Geneseo, who plans to become a nurse anesthetist.
- Carrson Widen, a biology major at the University of Albany, who is interested in becoming a clinician or a medical researcher.