I remember my first day as an intern at the UCSF Breast Care Center – my idea of what my position would entail was limited to what I had seen on the internship website and what I had heard from prior interns. Even from the little I knew at the start, I was sure that I would gain a great deal of insight and experience during my year at UCSF, and as months passed, I was consistently surprised by the opportunities that I and the other interns were provided and the variety of experiences we were able to have.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of the internship program was the Patient Support Corps. This program involved working with patients to help them identify and document their primary concerns and questions in order to facilitate their conversation with their physician, as well as accompanying the patient during their clinic visit to take notes during the clinical encounter. Through this highly dynamic and rewarding role, we developed relationships with patients that often spanned several clinic visits, providing us with a strong sense of the sorts of challenges that patients face both inside and outside of the hospital. A number of these patients have stayed in contact with me to this day, keeping me updated on their progress and keeping me grounded as I progress forward with my own medical career. While sitting in on clinic encounters, interns had the opportunity to observe the various communication techniques employed by different physicians in the Breast Care Center, an experience that we can draw from as we begin to develop the methods of clinical interaction and communication that we will use with our own patients. Overall, the Patient Support Corps was an experience that I believe puts interns in a very privileged and unique position, one that they may not have a chance to fulfill until later training: a patient advocate whose sole role is to help the patient understand and communicate their concerns and goals, both clinical and personal.
In addition to the work interns do with patients, we are also involved in a wide variety of research projects throughout the Breast Care Center. In my case, I took part in projects ranging from retrospective clinical studies and literature reviews to quality improvement projects, and even large-scale bioinformatics projects. With each of these projects, I was paired with a different advisor who occupied a different role in the Breast Care Center including practicing physicians and basic science researchers, all of whom were dedicated to my development and success as a researcher and intern and have continued to support me today. In this way, my time at UCSF exposed me to diverse array of research types available within medicine and informed the types of research projects I have pursued in medical school. A central goal of the internship is supporting the interns in reaching their own personal goals, which often translated to publications or poster presentations of the research we conducted during the internship. Through these projects, we gained familiarity with the research process from conception to communication, culminating in a personal research project that we each designed, conducted, and presented at the end of the year.
Beyond our research projects, the Breast Care Center internship provided us with ample time to develop our interests and satisfy our curiosities across UCSF. Interns became involved in projects that ranged from shadowing physicians in various specialties, attending lectures and speaker series at the university on topics like value-based health care or palliative care, and even working as a producer for a science podcast. Importantly, these sorts of engagements were only possible because of the flexibility and support within the internship program, which enabled us to personalize our own experiences as interns.
All in all, I believe that my experience as an intern was extremely beneficial and fulfilling, and I am certain that it will be an experience whose value will only continue to reveal itself as I continue through my schooling, training, and ultimately practice of medicine. This is an experience that would be educational and inspiring for anyone interested in medicine, any type of clinical research, or even health care administration.
UCSF Breast Care Center Intern 2016-2017
Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, Class of 2021