The internship program could not thrive without the mentors who offer their time each summer to show interns what healthcare looks like. They, too, have been affected, not only by the program itself, but by the changes that have taken place each year.
Mentors recognize that the experiences interns have during their summer at Cleveland Clinic can make a difference regarding their future career choices, and they work to shape the summer so that students can receive the most exposure possible
"Because they are in the process of forming their career, every step is important for them," says Fetnat Fouad-Tarazi, MD, Cardiovascular Medicine.
At its best, mentors say, the program helps students pin down what they're good at and what they want to do. "This is such a fantastic opportunity for someone who has a lot to offer," says Deborah Solomon, Nursing Education, "and it can showcase what gifts interns have for those who choose to take advantage of it."
As the program evolves and interns are exposed to a greater number of career paths, mentors' opportunities for networking increase as well. As Fouad says, "The students want to see other things, which then gives us a chance to interact with other departments."
Interns aren't the only ones who benefit from this program; mentors say that working with high school students is refreshing.
"Working with these brilliant young people has been an inspiration," says Rob Chatburn, Respiratory Therapy. "They challenge me to perfect my teaching and organizational skills. The experience has been one that enriches my own career as well as helping guide theirs."
My hope is that the interns have learned from us, as we have learned from them, and that the experience may have a lasting impact on their career choices.
Even as they coach their interns through a research project and educate them about healthcare careers, mentors themselves are learning. Some say this mutual sharing of knowledge and experience is an aspect of the program they greatly enjoy.
"My hope is that the interns have learned from us, as we have learned from them, and that the experience may have a lasting impact on their career choices," says Judith Scheman, PhD, Chronic Pain Rehabilitation.
As they work with these high school students, mentors are cognizant of the fact that the summer interns could be the next people working in their positions. "It's good for Cleveland when young people from within the city want to go into the medical field," says Fouad.
Mentors emphasize the uniqueness of the internship program. The fact that this opportunity is offered to students while they are still in high school is very special and not to be overlooked.
"It is not common to be able to work with motivated young people in situations that this program has provided," says Sherri Gross, Immunology Lab Section Leader. "Many of my peers across the country wish they had a program like this at their workplace."
As far as the Office of Civic Education Initiatives' goal in regards to this program goes, mentors say success is being seen across the board. "The program teaches a new language, that of research and healthcare delivery," says Dorothy Van Poppel Ray. "It stretches each intern's maturity and interpersonal skills, and begins to lay the groundwork for a purposeful future."