While working as an intern at the Center for Primary Care I had the opportunity to see the primary care field from a new, more well informed, and more evaluation- and innovation-based point of view. As a rising junior at Smith College in Northampton, MA, majoring in dance, minoring in chemistry, the Center was particularly interesting to me because I am considering a career as a primary care physician or a midwife. The Center’s mission is to improve the health of our communities through transformation in primary care practice and education and I was given many opportunities (including the aforementioned meetings) to participate and work with team members from every area of the organization. After ten weeks at the Center, the top five things I have learned are:
If ice cream is mentioned on your first day, it’s going to be a good summer internship. I would never have guessed that having someone ask me if I liked ice cream would do so much to calm my nerves when starting a new job, but that was really all it took to relieve some of my first day jitters. Throughout my summer at the Center, I’ve had meetings held over ice cream with either my team or the full staff and I’ve gone to get ice cream with other interns just to celebrate successful completion of another project.
You’re not just another intern, but a valued member of the team. This summer I experienced real collaboration and was invited and encouraged to participate in team research projects at every level. In the early stages of my internship, I met with members of the research team and explained what I would like to learn and gain from my experience. My team took a genuine interest in me, listening to me and guiding me through projects. In later meetings, my supervisors checked in to see how I felt about my projects and if I thought that anything needed to be added or adapted, providing a level of independence.
Be prepared to learn more than you expected. This doesn’t merely apply to research methodology or research-related knowledge, but also knowledge that could apply to many work and life situations. I worked on many projects this summer, and in doing so, I learned a great deal about primary care in Spain and Italy while also picking up some database and literature review skills in the process. I feel that my background research on Spain and Italy helped to advance the Center’s mission by assisting the research team in deciding which country had better opportunities for a case study. When it is finished, this case study will become a part of the team’s series used to educate future primary care physicians regarding innovations in primary care in the global health community.
When given the day to work from home, don’t work from home. Instead, explore a little and work from somewhere new. The week of July 4th, I was granted a day to work from home due to the holiday, so I traveled a little further than my usual commute and explored Cambridge and the main Harvard campus. I got a lot of my work done sitting on the Old Yard, and then journeyed inside Widener Library, one of the most exquisite libraries with massive marble staircases and endless bookshelves. The Cambridge and Boston communities offer an immense collection of motivated and inspiring people, and exploring the area is one way to meet some of those people and learn from their experiences.
Don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it. The Center has a very open and supportive environment that should be taken advantage of. The staff members come from a variety of backgrounds, so chances are that at least one person will be able to offer useful insight to the project you’re looking for help on. There are also many opportunities to ask questions and offer support: check-ins with direct supervisors that happened twice each week; team huddles that happened once each week; team meetings with a director once every other week; and all-team (full staff) huddles once each week.
Thank you to the Center for Primary Care and all of the staff and faculty members that I have worked with this summer. I’ve had a marvelous experience, and I am extremely appreciative of everything that you’ve done to help further my education and work experience.