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Internships Give Students Real-World Experience

Sep 15, 2016


Internship students outside of Memorial Regional HosptialThis summer, Randolph-Macon College students Maddie Purcell '19, Tara Balasubramanian '18, and PJ Patel '19 shadowed healthcare professionals, sharpened their networking skills, and observed medical procedures. All three interned at Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center in Richmond, Virginia, working under the guidance of Sarah Gardner, BSN, RN-BC, the hospital's clinical educator and residency coordinator.

Getting The Edge on Internships
Josh Quinn, associate director of professional development and medical careers for The Edge, helped arrange the internships. The Edge is a comprehensive, four-year program that focuses on personal and academic development and provides graduates with a competitive advantage when competing for jobs and top graduate schools. The Edge also offers students the opportunity to connect with business leaders and the college's alumni network and provides a wealth of internships throughout the year.

"For the past several years, Sarah Gardner has placed R-MC students in many different departments of the hospital, such as the OR, ER, interventional radiology, endoscopy, the mother-baby unit, and the cardiac catheterization lab," explains Quinn. "Nothing takes the place of hands-on training, and internships are a terrific way for students to discover what they like—and also very importantly, don't like—about a possible career choice."

Maddie Purcell '19
A biology major and chemistry minor, Purcell chose R-MC for its pre-med program and its sense of community.

"When I took a campus tour, I learned about R-MC's traditions, and I realized that I wanted to be a part of them," says Purcell, a Wornom Fellow. "In high school, I knew that I wanted to become a physician, so I really wanted a college with a strong pre-med program. I was drawn to R-MC's pre-med program because of The Edge and the early agreements that the college has with top medical schools."

Witnessing surgical procedures at Regional Memorial was a unique opportunity for Purcell.

"We watched procedures such as kyphoplasties, Cesarean sections, and endoscopies, and we asked the doctors and nurses lots of questions," she says. Her favorite procedure to watch was the kyphoplasty. "It was amazing to watch the interventional radiologist insert bone cement into the spine of a patient to relieve spinal pain. Watching procedures and getting to see how well the patients were doing after the procedures confirmed my dream of becoming a physician. I now have an idea of what I'd like to specialize in after medical school—perhaps pulmonary and critical care medicine, nephrology, endocrinology, oncology, or interventional radiology."

On campus, Purcell serves as executive assistant of Kappa Alpha Theta sorority, and she is a member of the Pre-Health Society and the Honors program.

Paranjay "PJ" Patel '19
Patel, a chemistry and biology major and Asian studies minor, had a "gut feeling" the first time he visited the college that R-MC was where he belonged.

"My first impression can be summarized in one word: home," he says. "Everyone I met was genuinely interested in me, and that sincerity has not dimmed in the slightest." Patel is passionate about chemistry.

"The challenges that the study of chemistry offers—making me think on my feet, and problem-solve—encourage me to push ahead," says Patel, who chose his major after meeting and working with Chemistry Professors Serge Schreiner and John Thoburn. "The enthusiasm and sincere interest they display in both my academic career and research brings with it a contagious sense of positivity," says Patel.

At Regional Memorial, Patel, who plans on becoming a doctor, was an active observer.

"Deciding to become a physician is in many ways deciding my life's work," he says. "The value of this internship is priceless. To be able to shadow physicians, nurses, and administration across a large hospital prior to medical school is an opportunity a pre-medicine student can only dream of. This type of exposure invigorates my decision to become a physician."

Just before beginning his internship, Patel was notified that was selected for the Jan M. Carter, MD '78 Medical Internship Program Award. "Meeting with this fellow Yellow Jacket proved to be an amazing learning experience, and the start of a new mentorship," says Patel, president of the Pre-Health Society, treasurer of Nourish International, and a member of The Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society, R-MC's Emergency Medical Services team, and Ashland Station 16 EMS.

Tara Balasubramanian '18
Balasubramanian, a biology and French major and chemistry minor, is very grateful for the opportunity to do an internship. Along with Purcell and Patel, she rotated through different departments (radiology, endoscopy, the OR, the emergency department) and watched procedures and surgeries.

"Before this internship, I wasn't entirely sure if I wanted to pursue a career in medicine," she says. "But being able to see how the doctors interact with their patients—plus watching numerous procedures and surgeries and seeing firsthand what a day in the life of a healthcare professional entails—showed me that I really do want to be a doctor." Balasubramanian hasn't yet decided, but thanks to her shadowing experience in the OR, she is thinking about becoming a general surgeon.

On-site Mentorship
Gardner, an RN for 36 years, has worked at Memorial Regional for 29 years.

"The students' primary duty was to observe physicians in different practice areas, and gain exposure to those different fields," she says. "This experience is geared to giving students a broad exposure to medical practice areas and providing them an opportunity to network with physicians and get advice and guidance from them as they start their journey into the medical field. I thoroughly enjoyed mentoring PJ, Tara and Maddie. It was my pleasure to provide them with learning opportunities that allowed them to explore and experience the world of medicine and healthcare."