Global Health Internship Opened My Eyes to the Future

By Kristin Leyson, 2019 SRGH intern

Last year, I had completely no idea what I wanted to study in college. I would always feel lost when people would ask me, “What do you want to do when you’re older?” I felt like there wasn’t really a profession that I would enjoy, and I felt pressured when thinking about the future.

During my grandmother’s final days, I spent a lot of time in the hospital. It was a very difficult time for my family, but the nurses were always there for us. Whether it was getting us an extra pillow or giving us words of comfort, they really helped us get through that experience. I remember thinking about how much I appreciated their actions. That was when I started looking more into the medical field, but because the medical field is so vast with such a plethora of jobs, I felt that I needed hands-on experience to discover what job would be the best fit for me.

One day, my counselors at Mercy High School announced that there was a six-week internship at UCSF called Summer Researchers in Global Health (SRGH). I didn’t know much about the field of Global Health, but I decided to apply in order to learn more. After a competitive process that consisted of a teacher nomination and a personal statement, ten students were selected and, fortunately, I was one of them.

I went into the internship without really knowing what was expected of me. During the orientation, I got my schedule and met with my mentor. My mentor was Solange Madriz, who works with a team that researches maternal health and maternal mortality. I learned that my first project was to write a literature review about simulation-based learning and how it connects to better teamwork and communication.

2019 SRGH interns standing in front of a wall
2019 SRGH interns, back row from left: Chiara Whitehurst, Sasha Barron-Kardos, Raymond Kwei (SRGH guest), Carlos Jaramillo, Darren Li, Anat Gilligan-Steinberg. Front row from left: Ivy Hung, Lena Yang, Connor Nakamura, Kristin Leyson, Catherine Kawaja.

On Mondays, I attended lectures about different topics of Global Health. For example, we would have lectures and discussions on non-communicable diseases, communicable diseases, maternal health, homelessness and how it affects health, global warming and its effects on health and universal health coverage. We also attended workshops and visited labs during these days. One day, we went to a prosthetics lab and a malaria research lab, and we got to learn more about those fields.

From Tuesdays to Fridays, I worked on my independent research project with Solange. I began my project by researching a lot about maternal mortality around the world. I learned how most of the maternal deaths in developing countries are actually very preventable and treatable. I connected my research on maternal mortality to my project on simulation-based learning. Simulation-based learning is a technique to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones that replicate aspects of the real world in an interactive form. It is a hands-on educational way of learning that creates a safe learning environment, and it can help develop health workers’ knowledge, skills, and attitudes while protecting patients from unnecessary risks. I concluded that rates of maternal mortality can decrease with the help of simulation-based learning.

Throughout this internship, I had the opportunity to work with and meet very intelligent and passionate people. Many of the Global Health workers talked about their experiences learning and working abroad. Before this internship, I never really thought about studying abroad, but now it is something I want to do in college. I specifically want to study abroad in developing countries in order to learn about different cultures and to help the people in these areas. In addition, Global Health is a field where professionals work to help populations of people. Although I loved the office environment at UCSF, I realized how in the future, I want to work with patients one-on-one because it is more fulfilling for me.

This summer made me realize how I want to study to be a nurse in the future. After I told my mentors at UCSF about this realization, they helped me meet nurses in order to talk to and shadow them to see what the field is like. My research on maternal health also has led me to consider neonatal nursing. I’ve learned firsthand how teamwork and communication is key to having successful deliveries, and I feel like I can contribute to this field with my knowledge I attained this summer.

I did not expect this internship to make such a big impact on what I want to do in the future. I now have a sense of direction and I no longer feel lost.