Teen internship offers everything from surgery to human resources
Each July, the halls of Mercy Regional Medical Center are filled with local students who are dreaming of a career in health care. Committed to helping further tomorrow’s health care professionals, Mercy Health hosts the students as part of a month-long internship through the Rising Stars internship program.
Now celebrating 15 years of success, the Rising Stars program began as a means to offer high school standouts firsthand experience in health care careers. Since its inception, 42 students have benefited from the internship. Of that number, one is currently enrolled in medical school; one is pursuing a master’s degree and 12 have graduated from undergraduate programs.
Funded by the Mercy Foundation of Lorain County and the Nord Foundation, the program began at the suggestion of Michael Connelly, former president and CEO of Mercy Health, as part of the health system’s diversity initiative.
Hearing the idea, Edwin Oley, CEO of Mercy – Lorain, took the ball and ran with it. Oley developed a partnership between Mercy and the Lorain County Urban League. The Rising Stars curriculum and standards of outcomes were designed by Catherine Woskobnick, vice president of mission and values at Mercy, who continues to oversee it.
“I wanted to ensure that each student would experience health care at every level and by doing so they could determine their career path,” Catherine said. “I have always been proud of the program and especially the students who have accomplished so much. Each one is special to me, and I maintain contact with them throughout the year.”
The partnership with the Urban League has been essential to the program’s success. Frank Whitfield, president & CEO of the Lorain County Urban League, says that Rising Stars is making Lorain County a better place to live.
“Rising Stars is one of the reasons I wanted this role at the Urban League because it is so unique,” he said. “I’ve not seen a program like this where young people are exposed to every aspect of health care and includes work experience. This program is creating a culture where they become invested in Lorain County and want to come back home to live, work and raise their families while giving back through their incredible skills.”
Rising Stars internship program: the student perspective
Each year, students are selected from a pool of applicants from area schools. They spend a month at Mercy Health, where they are exposed to opportunities offered through a career in health care. Similar to a traditional internship, students work 40 hours a week, dividing their time between shadowing physicians and health care professionals, while working in various hospital departments.
Over the course of the program, students are engaged in onsite projects that instill relationship and team building to help these youth along their career path. They rotate through such areas as oncology, surgery, obstetrics, emergency, rehabilitation, food services, human resources, finance, administration and marketing.
Parris Smith, who interned in Rising Stars seven years ago, now serves as a project ready coordinator with the Lorain County Urban League.
“Rising Stars gives young people an opportunity to understand all aspects of a health system,” she said. “You experience the clinical side by watching surgeries, accompanying physicians during rounds and even observing what happens in the emergency room. You also realize that there are many ways to work in health care, such as in administration or support. Not many programs offer an opportunity for a 16-year-old to meet and talk with a hospital CEO, lawyers and financial officers. It’s an amazing program.”
Parris’ love of the program and business skills led her back to working directly with Rising Stars in her role with the Urban League. After graduating from Cleveland State University, she returned to her hometown.
“I found that I can make a difference in my home county of Lorain by helping us attract new doctors, nurses and other clinical staff,” she said.
In her last year at Ohio State University, RaeShawn Stephens, a fourth year Rising Stars’ participant, plans on attending graduate school and applying to medical school. She says that she knew that she wanted to enter a health career, but wasn’t sure which role.
“Shadowing the physicians solidified my choice and helped me realize what I want to do with my life,” RaeShawn said. “Mercy taught me the importance of caring for the whole person, and I’m looking forward to getting my degree and coming back to Lorain County to practice medicine.”
This year, Rising Stars celebrates its first student attending medical school. Jordan Brown. Jordan is enrolled at Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and aspires to become an anesthesiologist and return to Lorain.
“This program helped me explore my career options,” he said. “Thanks to Rising Stars, I met influential people who really connected with me. Mercy and the Rising Stars program are near and dear to my heart as are all of those who have impacted my life.”
If you’re interested in learning more about the Rising Stars internship program or submitting an application, visit Urban League’s website for more information.
Interested in learning more about Mercy Health programs? Check out our AmeriCorps program here.