During the summer of 2023, the Kaiser Permanente Bernard J. Tyson School of Medicine (KPSOM) hosted several students from varied universities who took part in internship opportunities within different departments throughout the school. Students gained key experiences in professional development, mentoring, and on- and off-campus learning opportunities during their time at KPSOM. Here, we share the stories of several interns who joined us during this period.
When Darryl Payton began his internship in the Office of Equity, Inclusion and Diversity (EID) this past summer, he already had familiarity with Kaiser Permanente because his first high school job was a summer internship at one of its health centers in Ontario, California. Today, the recent University of Southern California graduate, medical school applicant, and aspiring orthopedic surgeon specializing in sports medicine said he appreciates having had the chance to get a behind-the-scenes look at how KPSOM operates.
“I got a head start imagining my niche in medical school,” said Payton. “I loved the unique opportunity to contribute to a new, growing medical institution as well as becoming a valued member [of] our school community.”
Payton supported a project focused on inclusivity for future students who are historically underrepresented in medical education, which was particularly important to him considering his chosen medical path is one of the least diverse and most competitive fields in medicine. His primary project was the Black Physicians Mentorship Program, which allowed Payton to conduct extensive research into the best mentorship practices at neighboring medical institutions across systematic reviews.
“From my research and my own personal experience, I was able to make recommendations on what makes great mentorship at an institutional level, and I got the opportunity to present my findings to the EID and OSA (Office of Student Affairs) teams,” explained Payton.
Nadia Celaya Carrillo interned in the Health Systems Science (HSS) department, working on a Service-Learning course along with mentor Isabel Chen, MD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Health Systems Science and Internship Co-Course Director. The second-year student studies Public Health with a concentration in Community Health Sciences at the University of California, San Diego, and identifies as a first-generation nonbinary Latinx college student.
Carrillo’s aim is to create a safe environment for Latinx undergraduate students as they seek to pursue a master’s degree in public health, a Juris Doctor degree, and later, a career as a public health lawyer in the government sector. Carrillo plans to continue their public health research while reaching for these goals. They hope their involvement in MEChA—a social, cultural, and political organization rooted in student activism—as a Student-Initiated Peer-Guidance for the Undergraduate Experience Retention Coordinator/Community Liaison and role as a Recruitment and Retainment Chair of the Society of Hispanic Students in Law aid in obtaining these goals and retaining Latinx students during their educational journeys.
While pursuing law with a STEM degree might seem a bit unorthodox, Carrillo explained that a huge takeaway from their KPSOM internship experience was discovering that their ability to be intersectional and versatile is a distinguishing factor, and their mentors encouraged Carrillo to continue to open doors at UCSD and share their skills with others, particularly students with similar backgrounds. Carrillo was advised to select a career path for which they have enthusiasm and passion, which their mentors suggested would help contribute to personal fulfillment and professional/personal growth.
“It was inspiring to see all the faculty members do their jobs with true passion and dedication,” said Carrillo, who insists that this advice has stuck with them throughout the undergraduate journey.
Carrillo is thankful for the resources, opportunities, and new experiences that KPSOM provided while navigating their career journey. They shared that the school’s values and mission, safe and welcoming environment, supportive faculty and staff, and commitment to a flexible, hybrid work setting all contributed to the success of their internship.
“I learned a lot about navigating corporate America and working for a medical institution,” said Carrillo. “The calm environment within the school and workplace made it easier for me to connect and network with other healthcare professionals. I enjoyed learning about the work the faculty members commit themselves to [such as] providing a good, quality education for future physicians.”
Destiny Clark interned in the Health Systems Science department for eight weeks and says she wishes her time at the school had been even lengthier. The recent University of California, Los Angeles graduate who majored in Physiological Science and double minored in Public Health and Professional Writing enjoyed the collaborative nature of her KPSOM internship, which involved several departments. Her experience allowed her to engage in work aimed at improving research and community involvement, which resonated with the aspiring physician. Clark said she appreciated the opportunity to learn more about KPSOM and Kaiser Permanente and work closely with individuals who have come together to improve the health system and community. During various class sessions Clark attended alongside KPSOM medical students, she learned that HSS explores community, population, and global health, how these factors influence health, and how healthcare can be improved.
“Being able to attend these classes, faculty meetings, and departmental talks grew my desire in wanting to be a part of an establishment like Kaiser [Permanente] where I can work with amazing people who are constantly making strides towards improving the health of others.”
Much like Carrillo, Clark said her internship program emphasized the importance of having a deep interest in her chosen profession, which in turn can help drive the significant impacts she will make on society—impacts that can range from developing new forms of research and resetting the healthcare system to inspiring others to follow in her footsteps.
And like the old adage says: Time flies when you’re having fun. Clark can attest to this as she said her internship duties didn’t feel like work at all.
“It was fun waking up every morning to complete a task no matter how extensive conducting literature reviews could be or researching educational content. I enjoyed every task I was given and the feedback I received in response.”
Each intern received mentorship over the course of their internship and was given access to many resources and advice to help them complete projects and tasks.
Payton thanked his mentor Kimberly Freeman, MBA, MPP, EdD, KPSOM Assistant Dean for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, for her support, “openness and genuine kindness” throughout his time at KPSOM.
“She instilled in me the confidence to explore the marginalized history of medical education, to fearlessly ask questions, and to take pride in my cultural identity through projects such as the Black Physicians Mentorship Program,” said Payton. “We bonded over our shared USC connections, sports, and she even helped support my field trip to the Dallas Cowboys Training Camp in Oxnard.”
In addition to mentorship from Dr. Chen, Carrillo noted they also received significant guidance from Internship Co-Course Director Alma Lopez, MD; Cynthia Santana, HSS Service-Learning Coordinator; and Service-Learning Leads Resa Caivano, MD, MPH; Rebecca Deans, MD; Abraham Gallegos, MD, MS; Angelico Razon, MD, MPH, MSHP; John Su, MD, MPH, FAAFP; and Matthew Welzenbach, MD. Notably, Dr. Chen provided Carrillo with valuable insight into navigating corporate America and higher education and lent support throughout the internship process and beyond.
“I … was constantly in awe because of [Dr. Chen’s] kindness, generosity, [and] supportive energy,” said Carrillo. “I was deeply impacted by [her] wonderful guidance and look forward to continuing to share my accomplishments [and] ideas with her as I carry on throughout my professional journey.”
Similarly, Clark credited her mentor Robert Nocon, MHS, PhD, Assistant Professor of Health Systems Science, with cultivating a path towards working within the healthcare industry.
“It was invaluable to have time where he could share his skills, expertise, and knowledge with me,” said Clark. “In the moments where I expressed an interest in wanting to learn more about the impacts of healthcare, public health, research, and a career path in pediatrics, I was grateful for the effort [Dr. Nocon] placed into mentoring me, and how receptive he was in giving me opportunities to learn about his work and [to] meet other individuals who I could potentially learn from.”