STEP Project Reflection

Reflecting on my time as an intern at The Ohio Department of Health

Kiran Phuloria

Being a Health Sciences major and Biology minor, I was interested in combining my scientific and healthcare knowledge to immerse myself more into the workings of the medical and healthcare fields. I wanted to experience, first-hand, how doctors, nurses, administration, epidemiologists, and many more professionals work together to provide the absolute best patient care and treatment. Pursuing an internship at Ohio Department of Health helped me learn just that, along with many more life and professional lessons. I was an intern in the Bureau of Infectious Diseases, program that investigates and analyzes information on the incidence and prevalence of general infectious diseases, health events, vaccines, and more. I worked mainly with infectious diseases such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria. My role was the call patients diagnosed with these specific diseases and ask them questions about clinical information, food history, animal exposures, and travel and activities, in an effort to gain more information about where outbreaks may happen or if there are links between cases. Talking to the patients allowed for more investigation from an epidemiological standpoint and also allowed me the chance to work with epidemiologists closely to find causes of diseases.

Throughout the summer, my understanding of myself, my assumptions, and my view of the world all changed into a more comprehensive, appreciative view. Before the internship, I had never worked in a professional setting, moreover a healthcare setting; my previous experiences included retail jobs and volunteering at hospitals. My outlook on myself changed through recognizing more specific goals for my future. I learned how important it was for me to interact directly with patients and to receive and give timely responses to emails/other tasks. As for my assumptions, I used to be oblivious about the inner workings of how different healthcare professionals work together, assuming there was medium to little interaction. However, I learned, through various events over the three months, how incredibly close hospitals, private practices, retirement homes, health departments, infection prevention, and many more work together. Finally, my view of the world became more positive and realistic. I don’t think individuals realize adulthood and career until they truly immerse themselves in the environment and I saw how individuals truly carry their passions from college into the workplace, aiming to provide better health outcomes, all while balancing their own personal and financial situations. I aim to carry my passions from college along with realistic life lessons, all the challenges and joy that comes along with adulthood.

Finding my appreciation for direct patient interaction and timely responses came from every interactions I had at work. Talking to the patients and asking them questions on symptoms/health history opened my eyes to how much compassion and understanding is required in the healthcare field, which I never truly understood until actual patient interaction. Listening to their comments and concerns, and answering to them, was more rewarding to me than any basic question that was part of protocol.

Next, I learned about how close hospitals, health departments, and other health institutions work with each other through a specific event in our department, Bureau of Infectious Diseases. Our epidemiologists were working on an investigation regarding a romaine lettuce outbreak and asked the interns to talk to specific patients, with strains of interest, to see if they had any romaine lettuce, or where they are from, and matters of that sort. While calling these patients, I also cross referenced test results and information with nurses. Often times, nurses would redirect me to a laboratory or an infection prevention department. Other times, I would be referred to primary physicians or long term care facilities. This process made me realize how many institutions are tied together on the health concerns of a single patient, and how communication between these places is important is best helping the patient. Gaining information or confirming information from all these sources gave me, and ultimately, our epidemiologists more answers for the investigation.

Lastly, I was able to develop a more positive and realistic view of the world through the relationship I developed with my immediate supervisor. During my job training, she clearly provided me with objectives and normal job expectations, like uploading data, talking to patients, faxing, filing, etc. However, she also provided me with great advice on how to succeed at the internship, which was not necessarily written in any official objectives. She shared stories of her background and how she came into public health. She also talked about her love for her pets, how she enjoys camping with her family, and her day to day life outside of work. Through these conversations, I learned how it is possible to have amazing passion in your career and have a joyful life outside too! In college, sometimes, there is a pessimistic attitude that people do not enjoy their jobs in the future or actually have a life outside of work. However, through my actual hands on experience, I realized how this is not true and with personal effort and growth, anything is possible.

I am grateful for the opportunity to have interned at the Ohio Department of Health. This transformation, as a student and aspiring healthcare professional, was valuable for my life for many reasons. Being a Health Sciences, on the pre-medical track, I was always intrigued to get more information and insight to how day to day interactions and tasks would be; this is not something students get to experience in the classroom. It was also significant to see how knowledge from the classroom, specifically from general biology to healthcare management classes, were able to apply at work. The experience relates to my future personal and professional goals as it reaffirmed and grew my passion for the healthcare field and showed me how I am on a promising path to do what I love as a career, as long as I work hard to follow objectives, build interpersonal relationships, and bring my strengths to anything in life.

Presenting at a statewide meeting