StudentAug 9, 2017Campus News
By: Caitlin Waters

‘Making a Difference’ by Junior Caitlin Waters

I interned for Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s bi-institutional research center in the Center for Comparative Medicine and Pathology in New York City.
‘Making a Difference’ by Junior Caitlin Waters

“It’s always inspiring to me to meet people who feel that they can make a difference in the world. That’s their motive, that’s their passion. I think that’s what makes your life meaningful, that’s what fills your own heart and that’s what gives you purpose.” –Maria Shriver

This quote perfectly captures the reason why I aspire to become a healthcare administrator. Having volunteered on the oncology unit at the hospital my mother worked at from a very young age, I was always drawn to how the nurses and staff provided comfort and care with such a positive attitude throughout such a difficult time in a patient’s life. Something that stuck with me to this day was that although some days might have been tougher than others, my mother never lost sight of her passion and did in everything in her power to care for her patients to the best of her ability. These experiences with volunteering and seeing my mother’s passions prompted me to want to be a part of the administrative tasks involved in a hospital and contributing to improve the patient experience.

This summer, I was privileged to have had the opportunity to intern for two world-renowned organizations. I interned for Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s bi-institutional research center in the Center for Comparative Medicine and Pathology in New York City. The Center for Comparative Medicine and Pathology works to support collaborative research by purchasing supplies or equipment that researchers may need in the care and use of animals, putting in payroll, and analyzing profits/losses within the department.

I began my internship in late May and rotated between various administrative sections within the department each week. Some sections that I shadowed include the Lab, Finance and Information Systems Administration, Billing, Husbandry and Operations, and Education and Quality Assurance. I was introduced to billing processes, standard of procedures, and payroll. This rotation has helped me to see all of the components that go into efficiently running a research facility.

Throughout this internship, I have further improved my skills in using Excel. I learned how to create Pivot Tables and use various elements within Excel that further help the Billing Department summarize and analyze data. My listening and writing skills have also further developed by recording the minutes of general staff meetings. I was able to summarize key points and details into a Word document that would later be referenced by all staff within the department. I was also taught how to think critically when finding solutions to problems, as I contributed in implementing a new pick-up process into the department that is more time efficient for both staff and researchers.

This internship has taught me the responsibilities of working in the real world that include being on time, dressing professionally and working hard to produce results. Having to take a train and a subway everyday to my workplace, I needed to make sure that I was ready by a certain time in order to arrive at my workplace in a timely manner. Working hard to fulfill the day’s responsibilities further taught me to practice these time management skills.

One of the biggest mistakes that I have made was at the beginning of my internship when I did not ask many questions. However, I learned that it is necessary to ask questions to learn and get the most out of my internship experience. By asking questions, I was able to get clarification on things that I did not understand which further enhanced my knowledge in administration. From this, I was able to receive feedback and constructive criticism from my mentors that helped me to grow in my desired field and helped me to understand what I needed to work on moving forward.

I have learned that teamwork and communication is key in the workplace. During each meeting that I attended, especially the general staff meetings, everyone from each section was able to bring up important issues that needed to be fixed or that were in the final stages of completion. Some of these steps to being resolved required collaboration with other sections to achieve their end goal. Not only did I notice this outward communication and teamwork with staff, but I also witnessed it through my mentors who were open to hearing my ideas on certain issues and how I would work to improve particular situations. They were open to seeing a different perspective through an outside pair of eyes.

I am most proud of implementing a more organized and time efficient process into the laboratory. Noticing the current process for researchers picking up blocks and slides and noting that it could be further improved, I worked with my mentor to implement an easier pick-up process that would increase work flow and decrease time searching for them by using a specific organizational method. We then collaborated with the Lab Manager and staff and later got approval, with the implementation process to begin shortly. This specific moment in my internship is the most memorable because I was able to leave my mark at the facility, and gain experience in collaborating with and incorporating everyone’s ideas into a more efficient process for everyone.

Another one of my most memorable moments was sitting in on a general staff meeting with many senior staff. In one of my health administration classes with Dr. Olden, I learned how meetings are facilitated and the specific measures needed to take in order to make sure necessary information is talked about in the allotted time. It was interesting to apply that knowledge and see it play out in the real world setting. This meeting opened my eyes to the many things the bi-institutional facility does across the different sections, in not only administration but in clinical services as well.

My advice for anyone who is going into an internship would be to take advantage of every opportunity you get. Don’t be afraid to ask if you could shadow a meeting that is of particular interest to you or attend a seminar that is being offered. Internships are for learning about your interests and exploring something that you might find interesting pertaining to your desired career path. I would also connect with the people that work in the facility with you. It is important to network, and also get to know your co-workers and mentors, which makes the internship more enjoyable.

My internship at Weill Cornell Medicine and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s bi-institutional research center has provided me with the opportunity to explore what health administration involves in a research facility setting. This internship has allowed me to dive into projects and tasks within different sections that have taught me how the business side works into operating a research facility. I learned a lot through this experience and will continue to take this learned knowledge and apply it to my future internships or jobs. I am truly thankful to have been a part of an internship where I was helping to support innovative research that could possibly cure cancer one day.

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