MHHI provides hands-on opportunity for students seeking careers in healthcare

by Matt Overing

MHHI summer 2023

Pictured at top: Lainey Fingerman (left) and Duerell Bard (right) pictured with a Morning Pointe resident during their MHHI internship. 


From Wii Sports to rock climbing, Centre College students received first-hand experience in diverse health-care professions with patients of all ages in the surrounding community.

Now in its fifth year, the Medical Health Humanities Institute (MHHI) promotes real-world experience for students interested in public health. MHHI is a collaboration between Centre, Rhodes College and Sewanee: The University of the South. This year, four Centre students participated in the program: Aliana Conway (Sewanee location), while Ali Grace Fleeman, Duerell Bard and Lainey Fingerman each participated in the program in Danville, Kentucky.

Fleeman, Bard and Fingerman shared their impressions and what they learned at three local health care facilities: Camp Horsin’ Around, Isaiah House and Morning Pointe Senior Living Center. 

“I was really interested in the intersection of medicine and the humanities in the MHHI program,” said Fleeman, a Behavioral Neuroscience major from Asheville, North Carolina. 

Fleeman, who will graduate in 2024 and hopes to pursue neuropsychology, utilized the MHHI internship to gain experience in the clinical field.

“Those three sites, they all did really different things,” she said. “I feel like they gave us a well-rounded look into that developmental lifespan approach so we could help people at all ages.”

Camp Horsin’ Around is nearly 200 acres of land dedicated to providing emotional and social support to children with compromised health and their families. Fleeman said she helped with a group from Shriners Hospital in Lexington, and they did rock climbing, boating, crafting and more. 

“They had activities for therapeutic respite as well as counseling in the afternoons for the kids,” Fleeman said. “It was really cool to see the way that the camp provided an adaptive experience.”

Bard, a Lexington, Tennessee native, had previously volunteered for community service at Camp Horsin’ Around with the Centre football team, but this was a new experience.

“We're helping with kids who have disabilities,” Bard said. “We got to go fishing, ride boats, shoot archery. It was very interactive throughout. Being there and working at Camp Horsin’ Around, I got to see something totally different than just a football team coming there and cleaning up.”

Isaiah House, a non-profit providing comprehensive, evidence-based treatment for individuals with substance use disorders, provided another beneficial experience through the MHHI initiative. Bard said he worked with a group of women who were going through the organization’s treatment program, including clinical sessions focused on different themes related to their recovery.

“I talked to them, got to hear their deep stories and really feel with them,” Bard said.

Fingerman, a native of Ocean Township, New Jersey, said that she hopes to go into pediatric medicine. Naturally, she enjoyed time spent at Camp Horsin’ Around, but said that each stop offered interactions and insights into healthcare at different stages of life.

“It’s one thing to look at something from the outside and say, ‘I want to do that,’ but it's another thing to experience it. I got to interact more with the people who were there — the kids, the rehab clients, the elderly. That’s what it’s about, talking and interacting with them.”

At Morning Pointe Senior Living, the students helped with day-to-day activities and care. 

“I really enjoyed the staff and watching how they interacted with the residents,” Fleeman said. “I felt they did a good job at always being engaged. It’s a small community, and it was great to see the camaraderie they were able to facilitate among their residents. I was thinking about how, if I’m part of a practice one day, I’d like my practice to be and how I’d want people to feel welcome like that.”

Conway, a Louisville, Kentucky native, interned at Sewanee: The University of the South in Tennessee. A member of the class of 2025, Conway said she came to Centre with the expectation of a pre-nursing focus — and her MHHI experience helped introduce her to different specialties.

MHHI summer 2023
Aliana Conway (at right) pictured during her MHHI Internship at Sewanee: The University of the South.

“Day after day, I was introduced to new areas,” Conway said. “And one of those areas was therapy — physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy. I was stationed in the rehabilitation center, and I loved it.”

Conway said she spent most of her time speaking with patients and learning about their experiences in life — whether it was a patient who suffered from a stroke, had knee replacement surgery or someone who couldn’t participate in therapy at home, she helped them all.

“One day my job was to play Wii Sports with one of the patients in the rehabilitation center,” she said. “He wanted to do that activity as his physical therapy because he was already fully independent. I got to know him, and I got to see healthcare from his perspective, which was interesting considering I've never spent a large amount of time in the hospital.”

Conway added that her experiences at Centre — from a CentreTerm in Morocco to a diverse variety of classes on campus— helped lay the groundwork for her MHHI internship.

“One thing I think Centre prepared me well for was diving into a new experience,” she said. “I was a bit nervous going to a new town four hours away from home and doing this internship out of the blue. But Centre gives you these controlled environments to go explore and to be more independent. So that finally, when you're ready to set out on your own, you're able to do that successfully.”