Justin Pedersen '11
Major: Biology, Pre-Allied Health Professions Program
Internship: Sherburne Family Health Center
Credit/Time: 2 credits, supplement to biology curriculum, J-Term
How did you find out about your internship?
I want to become a physician’s assistant (PA), so I spoke with Kevin Steckline, who is a RPA’C [Registered Physician Assistant – Certified]. He’s a member of my church and family friend. It’s difficult for undergrads to observe in a clinical setting because of the confidentiality and paperwork involved. I had to jump through a lot of hoops.
I spent three days shadowing a private orthopedic doctor, but I spent most of the time with Kevin. In the medical field you need so much training before you can begin working with patients. It was great to have this opportunity as an undergraduate. I’m sure this will be the first of many internship experiences.
How would you describe a typical day at your internship?
Starting at 8 a.m. we’d see patients until 5 p.m. We had 14-20 patients per day. I went into the exam room most of the time. Kevin has worked out of the same office for 21 years, so he has a following among his patients. They welcomed me as a student observer.
In between patients I’d look over charts. Kevin did a good job of explaining diseases, pathologies, and prescriptions. It was interesting to see his depth of knowledge; I was really impressed by that. We might see someone with diabetes, the next patient might have a laceration, and another the common cold.
Did you complete any special projects?
I did research on insulin dependent diabetes mellitus [Juvenile Type 1]. For my project, I found out about a cross-country skier who made the Olympic team who had type 1. That encouraged me to examine the lesser-known form of the disease. For the academic components of my internship, I wrote a paper looking at the disease’s pathology, which is the onset and factors that lead to a disease.
What surprised you the most?
I was surprised by the amount of knowledge Kevin and the P.A. assistants had. They had textbooks’ worth of information memorized. I listened to the patients describe their symptoms and the line of questioning the PAs used to work through the line of critical thinking to pinpoint the diagnosis.
I was also surprised by my love of the operating room. I saw 10-12 procedures performed. I remember watching a gall bladder removal and seeing the anesthesiologist, doctors, and assistants all right there made me think of the training I go through to be a runner—everything has a purpose. I found it absolutely fascinating.
What did you learn that you wish you had known before?
I realized the value to all of the work I was doing in the classroom. In each case, a person uses the same skill set to work through problems.
What did you find most satisfying?
Finding out what it is I want to do. I could see myself in their shoes. I definitely came back for this semester refreshed. Now I know I’m working towards a specific goal.
What advice do you have for other students considering a similar internship?
Keep an open mind. I was originally leaning towards a family practice. I never thought I’d be fascinated by surgery. Go with the flow. Being patient through the process and working hard during the initial steps will lead to a better experience.