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Blountville native narrows career choice through internship

Submitted by Laura K. Boggan • Dec 23, 2017 at 4:30 PM

Since its inception, King University has been known for its rigorous liberal arts and scientific, educational experience. Today, a collegian’s astute skill set should include not only a challenging academic regimen but also a research, internship, or shadowing experience in his or her chosen field. For science students, whether the plan is to work in a medical environment or solve the unsolvable as a researcher, hands-on experience is a critical piece of the puzzle for most employers recruiting for their ranks.

Blountville native and King senior Ashley Reynolds is a Biology major with a Cell and Molecular concentration and minors in both Mathematics and Chemistry. Reynolds applied for and was accepted for a National Science Foundation funded Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at Georgia Southern University. Her research internship was with the CollaborativE Multidisciplinary Investigations Through Undergraduate Research Experiences (CEMITURE).

“This summer helped me solidify that I do want to do scientific research in my field, and also helped me narrow my focus down a little,” Reynolds said.

Reynolds spent 10 weeks at the Georgia Southern Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry working with Dr. Ji Wu, assistant professor of Analytical Chemistry, and Dr. Worlanyo Eric Gato, assistant professor of Biochemistry. “Our project goal was to determine the cellular toxicity of nanomaterials that we synthesized,” said Reynolds. “This program included both presentation and writing portions as well as two oral presentations, one poster presentation, and one research paper on our project. I also learned how to work with many different types of equipment that many students do not get to use until they are in graduate school. This program offered me many lasting connections and helped me realize I would love to do this type of research in the future and as a career.”

Shadowing a medical professional in the field in which you hope to one day work is a perfect way to gain hands-on experience. Staff and patients at the Valley Children’s Hospital in Madera, California, were seeing double this summer as Doi twins, Marina and Regina, both seniors at King, shadowed Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. Kenneth Rouillard. “My sister and I shadowed Dr. Rouillard and a physician's assistant (PA) in the Pediatric Cardiology Department. We got to see two open-heart surgeries, chest tubes being pulled from patients post-surgery and followed Dr. Rouillard and the PA in the clinic and post-surgery at the hospital. We shadowed Monday-Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. throughout May and June,” said Marina.

Regina added, “[We] learned a lot of information pertaining to the field of Cardiology such as the different types of heart conditions, how to read EKGs and ECGs, and different treatment options for each respective heart condition. This experience has helped influence my decision to pursue a career in the medical field since now I know what working in the medical field is like. This opportunity has also piqued my interest greatly in wanting to work in the Cardiology Department. I’ve been thinking about going into the medical field in the military. I would like to go into the physician assistant program in one of the branches.”

Like her twin, Marina also plans to have a career in the medical field.

“This experience solidified my aspirations to go into the medical field by allowing me to see how I can help patients when I get older. The doctors and PAs had such a huge impact on these patients’ lives, and I hope to be that person helping people out one day. I plan on working in the medical field back home in California once I graduate in the spring. After I get some hands-on experience, I plan [to apply] to physician’s assistant School in 2019.

“The science programs at King have been very successful at helping students obtain research opportunities, internships, and shadowing experiences,” said Kelly Vaughan, Ph.D., assistant professor and chair of Biology. “During 2017, six King science and math students participated in REU programs, two received their own grant from the Appalachian College Association to conduct research with me over the summer, and six participated in clinical internships or shadowing opportunities. While we can offer some limited research opportunities outside of the classroom at King, students gain valuable perspective by going elsewhere and participating in programs at larger schools. Upon completion of research internships at other universities, our students routinely report back that the programs at King provided them with a strong foundation and the skills needed to excel.

“These opportunities are particularly important for students interested in professional school and are essential for those planning on attending graduate school. Eighty-five percent of successful medical school applicants have research experience compared to 74 percent with clinical shadowing experience,” Vaughan added.

“Internships are one of the most valuable elements of the student resume,” says Donna Felty, director of Career Development, Tri-Cities. “Through the internship program, a student applies the material learned in the classroom to gain extremely valuable work experience. An internship gives the student an opportunity to test-drive his or her area of interest. Such experiential learning will not only sharpen but also develop a student’s skill-set. Internships allow the student to begin networking, obtain references, and build relationships in his or her industry of interest.”

All three students said they would encourage others to either get an internship or shadow someone in their respective field.

Reynolds said, “Talk to professors! Apply early! Talk to students who have done internships. Look for programs that most closely align with your interests, but don't be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Apply as a sophomore, maybe even a freshman if you want.”

Regina Doi agreed, adding “My advice for other students would be to try and shadow in what interests them, and see whether or not it is what they thought it would be like. I think shadowing in different areas helped me learn about what I would like and not like to do in the medical field.”

“Definitely get some shadowing hours in as much as you can to see if this is what you really want to do in the future. Also, make sure you get a variety of doctors to shadow as well. We got to see what it was like in radiology, [the] clinic, cardiac catheter lab, the operating room, and post-surgery. Shadowing was definitely beneficial and opens your eyes to what's really out there,” Marina Doi said.

“Research opportunities, internships, and shadowing experiences are an invaluable part of a student’s education,” said Vaughan. “It helps students gain valuable experience and direct their interests in ways they may not have anticipated. While many students come away with an experience like Ashley, Marina, Regina that helps reaffirm their career choices, for other students the experience shows them that the path they had been interested is not the path for them after all. This knowledge is valuable for a student to learn as early in their education as possible.”

“Now is the perfect time to seek out internship and shadowing opportunities for next summer,” said Finley Green, director of Career Services at King. “Most organizations have deadlines coming up soon for their summer positions. If you wait, you might miss a perfect fit for you. If you have any questions about internships, contact your advisor Donna Felty or myself. We are happy to help guide you on the internship path.”

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