STEP Internship: Case Western Medical School Dean’s Office and Lab

This summer I spent two days of the week working in the Dean’s Office of Case Western Medical School and the other half of the week in a pediatric pulmonology lab. My main tasks included being responsible for starting up an online database for the office and assisting with studies by performing experiments and carrying out protocols in the lab.

I gained a greater insight into my abilities as an individual in the professional field. Being a returning intern, I had a bit of familiarity with the work and was given tasks that required me to guide younger, first-time interns. This showed me a new way of approaching the work. While I was still learning new things and had much room for growth, I was also required to be a mentor and lead others in explaining studies as well as the database that I was responsible for. This changed the way that I saw myself because before I had always lacked confidence in myself as an individual in the work field. I felt as though I was never fully equipped to completely take on tasks on my own. Being in the position of having to guide others instilled in me the confidence and fostered a sense of maturity that, I believe, helped tremendously even in improving the quality of work that I executed. I learned not only the skills and knowledge required for the lab and the office, but I learned them to be able to explain them to others—which I believe is the best way to ensure a deeper understanding. Approaching the work from this way was transformative, as it was something that I had never had to do before.

The first specific experience that I believe led to my transformation was when I was told that I would be the only one working on a completely new online database program. My supervisor notified me of an online training/orientation meeting that we would be having with the company who’s program we would be using. I was told that, while they would attend the meeting, I would be the first one who would be working on the program and would be later responsible for working out the nuts and bolts of it to later explain to the rest of the office. This immediately felt as though it would be a very large responsibility, as I was being trusted with the most important documents in the office, as well as being trusted in my technological competence to work with an entirely new and unfamiliar online program on my own. This was intimidating; however, I believe that this intimidation drove me to perform even better. The knowledge that this was entirely my responsibility placed a positive type of pressure on me that allowed me to succeed. I was attentive, detail-oriented and developed problem-solving skills along the way.

Another interaction that led to my transformation was the new student research assistant that I was working alongside in the lab. She was a freshman and it was her first year working in any lab setting. As someone who has had some experience in the lab, specifically the lab we were working in, I was expected by our PI to help assist her and get her acclimated to the lab. The relationship we built was transformative for me. I had never been on the mentor side of this kind of relationship. I was always the intern getting mentored. While there was a great deal that I also did not yet know, I was able to share my knowledge and familiarity of the lab with the younger student. Answering her questions, walking her through protocols and explaining how various apparatuses worked forced me to bring all of this knowledge to the forefront. When I was unsure of something, I had to learn to admit my shortcomings which I think is essential for personal growth. Our relationship also allowed us to be able to learn and grow together. For example, she had just taken General Chemistry and Biology, classes which I have not taken for a while. This type of foundational knowledge was still fresh in her head, so she was able to refresh my memory on essential information relevant to the lab that I may have forgotten, while I was able to explain some of the information that I have learned in my upper level classes. We developed a great relationship that I think was one of the highlights of my experience.

The last experience that greatly contributed to my transformation over the summer was the fact that I was split between the lab and the office. Because of the nature of the lab, many of the experiments “don’t take breaks”, so to speak. For that reason, the days that I was in the office, I was actually missing meetings and procedures, and often was not there for key discussions about studies. This put me at a disadvantage, however, it also required me to take personal initiative in order to catch up and put myself at the same place as the rest of my team. This was extremely transformative, as it put me in a completely new position. I had to ask more questions, do more personal research, and put in more of my own time in order to get to the level of understanding that everyone else was at. This taught me a lot about personal responsibility and accountability. I am proud of the growth I made and thankful that this project was able to be transformative in this way.

As seen through my experience, I learned so many valuable lessons through this project. These developments will be extremely useful to my future. These are lessons that are essential to succeeding in the professional field. I learned a lot about molding to the circumstances with which I was provided. While I may not encounter the same exact circumstances in future professional endeavors, I will be able to apply my knowledge and experiences of learning to adapt. This will be essential as I pursue medical school and beyond. Being a physician is a constant array of varying circumstances; one is constantly confronted with new cases and unknown, stressful situations. Having the ability to navigate these situations and adapt to new ways of thinking will be vital to succeeding. Things such as taking initiative, accountability, personal responsibility, mentorship and more are all the foundation to the latter.


One thought on “STEP Internship: Case Western Medical School Dean’s Office and Lab

  1. Hi Pauline,

    Thanks for the great reflection. Glad to see your experience was transformative in several ways. It sounds like you had some awesome projects to work on and really had an impact at the lab. Keep finding ways to challenge yourself! Best of luck this year.


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