Summer 2015 medical internships explore diverse range of topics
Centre College’s acceptance rate for students applying to medical school remains high, with an average of 80 percent of applicants being accepted over the past 10 years. That impressive number is bolstered by the opportunities Centre students are afforded to explore the field both in and beyond the classroom, including collaborative research and internships. This summer, three students are exploring unique medical internships at home and abroad.
Rachel Warner ’17 sought out a summer internship position in which she could be abroad, independent, practice speaking Spanish and work in public health and community development. Not “cut out for the actual side of the medical field, but still wanting to be able to help people on the same level,” Warner said the opportunity to go to rural Costa Rica was perfect.
“I want to be in the communities talking and working with people to develop helpful and sustainable solutions,” she explained.
For five weeks, Warner will be living in the community of Paso Canoas on the border between Costa Rica and Panama and working at the Southern Zone Ministry of Health. The area has problems with proper trash disposal and water sanitation that attracts mosquitos carrying dengue and chicanguya. She is helping educate locals on everything from hand washing to recycling and is also working on a “photovoice” project, giving voices to community members through pictures.
Her classes and professors at Centre have inspired her to do an internship that primarily focuses on helping others.
“An aspect of Centre that has encouraged me is the overarching and interconnected themes of social responsibility and exploring the world,” she said.
It’s not easy—Warner is living with only one other person in a homestay, has to take cold showers and endure hot days, as well as struggle with the Spanish language. Her international relations classes, professors and other students keep her excited and working, however.
“I have always been interested in helping people, but my experiences at Centre have allowed me begin to narrow in on how I want to do that,” she concluded.
International student Sara Wang ’16 (picture above) is working this summer with a biostatistics group at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. She’s analyzing RNA sequencing data in the Short Read Archive (SRA) to build predictors for sex, disease, population and more.
After engaging in a research project with Assistant Professor of Computer Science and Mathematics Forrest Stonedahl her sophomore year, she became interested in the data science world. Experience in making sense of data sets in different fields opens more career options for her, she said, prompting her to look into a summer internship in genomics data and later apply to graduate school.
“When I stepped into genomics at Hopkins this summer, I finally found the data I liked and decided to settle my path here,” Wang said. “I am planning to get a Ph.D. in biostatistics.”
Mason McClay ’17 is engaging in a research internship at the Helfgott Research Institute at the National College for Natural Medicine in Portland, Ore., which researches alternative medicines—everything from mindfulness and yoga to exercise and nutrition.
He is developing a six-week intervention study on how ginseng affects mood and cognition, investigating the chemical constituents of five herbs for a study on breast cancer cell reduction, taking daily seminars on alternative medicine, and shadowing naturopathic doctors and classical Chinese medicine practitioners.
McClay is no stranger to the area of research, having practiced mindfulness and meditation since he was 15 years old. As a first-year student, he worked in Assistant Professor of Psychology Aaron Godlaski’s lab on a project concerning the efficacy of emotion regulation strategies, and he has also been involved with the Contemplative Studies Initiative at Centre. His internship this summer is helping him to expand that already wide knowledge base.
“The idea of implementing mindfulness into the education and even psychiatric and medicinal systems has been very appealing to me since I began my studies,” McClay said. “However, my practical knowledge of how this can be achieved is quite limited.”
After participating in a neuroscience research internship last summer at the University of Cincinnati to study post-traumatic stress disorder, he’s continuing to explore mental health and sustainable models of health care in communities.
“I wish to help our society perceive mental illness differently and find more sustainable ways of treating and utilizing individual mental and emotional attributes,” he explained. “I also wish to explore some of the great mysteries of the mind, such as the mechanisms of consciousness.”
He is now considering a dual Ph.D./Naturopathic Degree in order to have a more hands-on impact.
“While I wish to be a scientist and educator first, and can see myself pursuing my higher goals through academic means, I also have this desire to help a patient personally,” he concluded.
by Elise L. Murrell
August 6, 2015
Pictured above: Sara Wang ’16 at John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health