Whitehead Internship Reflection

Katie Hughes, Summer Healthcare Quality Data Analyst Intern

July 27, 2021

I had the good fortune of joining HCIF through Haverford College’s Whitehead Internship Program. As I was applying to different summer programs, HCIF stuck out to me – its mission aligns closely with my interests in public health and process improvement.  My experience has exceeded my expectations.

HCIF is broken up into two divisions, one team serves projects having to do with Population and Community Health, and the other, the team I joined this summer, focuses on Clinical Quality and Patient Safety Improvements. It is a small organization, with around 10 full time staff members. Given this small size, I found it relatively easy to get acquainted with the different personalities and projects. This process was made even easier through the welcoming and supportive culture that came through, even in an entirely remote environment. I worked primarily on two projects, the Health Equity Data Strategy Collaborative (HEDS) and the Pennsylvania Urologic Regional Collaborative (PURC), I also sat in on the Anti-Racism Council and the Marketing team meetings and assisted with a few Partnership for Patient Care initiatives.

I consider the highlight of my time at HCIF to be my involvement with HEDS. This initiative really kicked-off during June, so I was privy to many of the early conversations and decisions being made about the direction of the program. I got to see first-hand how a collaborative decision-making process can produce polished, thoughtful outcomes. This initiative focuses on the collection and use of race and language data as a necessary step towards identifying and remedying disparities in healthcare outcomes. I particularly enjoyed attending larger meetings that convened healthcare workers at regional hospitals to discuss this project and the topic of health equity – I was enlightened by the nuance of the conversation and felt inspired by the eagerness and urgency with which they spoke about the issue.  

The other project I got to work on, PURC, aims to improve outcomes in treatment and diagnosis for men facing prostate cancer. My work primarily involved quality assurances of different reports and I was able to attend several meetings between physician participants in the collaborative. In the more data forward component of my internship, I got to troubleshoot the formatting in different excel documents and I enjoyed trying to make improvements that made them more functional. Again, I was heartened to see the enthusiasm and care with which these professionals took to their quality improvement initiatives.

While I was fascinated with the projects I got to work on, the thing that left the biggest impression on me was the culture of the organization. My coworkers demonstrated sincere interest in each other’s lives, and feedback was given kindly but authentically.  Our meetings often began with a “color check” where everyone on the call would select a color that best described their workload and emotional outlook for the week. This encouraged truthful reflection – there was no pressure to indicate that “everything was fine” and people often shared when they were having an overwhelming week or when they I had capacity to be helpful to those in need. I especially appreciated the intentional efforts each team member made to give credit when it was due. I always felt free to speak up and when I did, I felt that my contributions were thoughtfully considered and valued. I owe a specific debt of gratitude to Liz Owens. She is a project manager on the Clinical Improvement Team and the individual with whom I worked most closely. During our weekly one on ones, Liz showed me immense patience as I got my bearings within the organization and set me up with interesting and meaningful work.  I am very grateful for my time at HCIF and feel that it has equipped me with a greater understanding of working in a team and of the public health space more generally.

Welcome HCIF’s Health Communications Specialist Intern, Sami Hamed!

June 23, 2021

Sami Hamed has joined HCIF for the summer to serve as a Health Communications Specialist Intern. Sami has just finished his first year as an MPH student at Drexel University’s Dornsife School of Public Health, where he majors in Epidemiology. Prior to starting graduate school, he completed dual bachelor degrees in Biology and English at Connecticut College and spent several years doing editorial and publication work in the medical communications industry. 

Sami has a strong interest in health communication and the processes and strategies by which important healthcare and public health information can be made accessible to a variety of audiences. He will be working with the Communications and Marketing Committee and team members throughout HCIF to carry out research evaluating effective health communication strategies of similar organizations, assess the efficacy of HCIF’s current communication strategies, and identify areas that can be improved by implementing proven best practices for health communication. He will also be helping to draft online content for a number of programs and health observances relevant to HCIF’s work in the region. 

Welcome HCIF’s Summer Healthcare Quality Data Analyst Intern, Katie Hughes!

June 22, 2021

Katie Hughes, a rising senior at Haverford College, has joined HCIF’s Clinical Improvement team to serve as the Healthcare Quality Data Analyst Intern through the Whitehead Internship Program. Katie is a Political Science major who has declared a minor in Educational Studies and is pursuing her teaching certification in Secondary Social Studies. Her previous internship was spent as classroom teaching assistant with Philadelphia Futures, an organization that seeks to promote college access and completion for low-income, first-generation students in Philadelphia. 

With academic and personal interest in health equity and non-profit administration, Katie comes to HCIF excited to learn more about clinical improvement and the ways in which many stakeholders can collaborate to reach effective solutions.  Within Clinical Improvement at HCIF, Katie will be supporting the PURC Collaborative, the Health Equity Data Strategy Collaborative (HEDS), and other projects under the Partnership for Patient Care. She is eager to hone her skills in research, data analysis, written communication and project coordination.

HCIF Internship Experience

Valentina Moreno

April 23, 2021

Valentina Moreno joined HCIF in May 2020 as a Whitehead intern through Haverford College. After completing her Whitehead internship last summer, she continued working with HCIF as a Health Care Quality Intern and has played an integral role in providing support for several HCIF programs including PURC, OLAN, and PPC. As her internship comes to an end, HCIF would like to extend a sincere thanks to Valentina for her hard work and commitment and wishes her success in all her future endeavors!

There are few words capable of capturing the depth of gratitude I feel towards HCIF. I began my internship right as the world seemed to shift off kilter. On the heels of crushed expectations, fear, and confusion I began my position as an intern at HCIF. Somehow the uncertainty of the world felt subdued as I joined daily meetings with the amazing individuals that make up the organization. The clumsiness of a world trying to respond to an unprecedented pandemic was mediated by a group of dedicated individuals that continued to devote themselves entirely to their work. As a college student looking for my entry point into a career in health care, I was given free rein to pick the minds of staff with a diverse set of personal and professional backgrounds. To this day, I continue to be in awe of the skill and vigor with which everyone at HCIF approaches their work. 

During my time at HCIF I worked primarily on PURC, OLAN, the Safety Award, and HEDS. While every project has been fulfilling in its own right, I will most miss the excited calls that took place as part of the OLAN in preparation for regional meetings. There truly is something to be said about calls in which people can’t help but cut each other off in the sheer excitement of opportunities to improve patient care. I have observed passion like no other in this project from individuals who have given their lives to fight stigma and care for patients who deserve the highest health standards. The research I conducted to build out the resources and tools page for the project was rigorous, intellectually stimulating, and hope-inducing. In addition to my work with the OLAN team, I am particularly grateful for the opportunity to be on the HEDS team. The project, still in its nascent stages, is a welcome challenge. It has been incredibly instructional to witness the beginnings of a project firmly rooted in a vision for health equity. The project is timely and directly responsive to the local need for standardizing the collection of ReAL data. This project has inspired brainstorming in its most authentic forms — it has been completely and utterly thrilling to have autonomy as a team to decide the future scope of the project.

Beyond an exciting work environment and fulfilling work, however, what I will truly miss most about HCIF is the deep sense of community. It is hard to believe the connections I have made at HCIF were forged in an entirely remote setting. During my internship I moved from the US to London to Turkey and back and still somehow feel incredibly close to the Philly based organization. It is hard now to imagine what it will be like to not be on routine calls with familiar faces. While I have been working at HCIF just under a year it feels much longer–the growth I have experienced in this position is unparalleled. A year later things feel hopeful, and the world seems to be shifting back into kilter –despite the future still being ripe with uncertainty. HCIF has been a constant for me through the difficulty of this past year and for that it will forever have a place in my heart both professionally and personally. 

HCIF has given me the confidence to continue exploring my place in health care. I am concluding my time at HCIF to join Penn Hospital as a student data analyst with the Infection Control Department. While it is with great sadness that I leave HCIF it is also with great gratitude and excitement for what the future holds.

Whitehead Internship Experience

Valentina Moreno

August 28, 2020

Somehow in the midst of an unprecedented global pandemic and a border-transcending civil movement, HCIF managed to make my summer experience incredibly fulfilling. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for an organization that adopted me as soon as I got on my first zoom call. The pandemic forced me to move to the UK at the start of the summer where I worked remotely for the majority of my internship. I was separated from my coworkers in a very literal geographic sense and distanced by my drastic time zone difference. Nevertheless, I have never encountered a more welcoming and inspiring group of individuals. If HCIF has taught me anything, it is that there is no need to compromise on what you value in a job. I never had to sacrifice mission and social justice for intellectual rigor and I never had to give up my own mental health and happiness to do well at my job. Essentially, I learned that even as an intern who has yet to graduate, I have access to incredible opportunities. To any future Whitehead applicant, I guarantee that an internship at HCIF (even a remote one) will result in unparalleled personal and professional growth. 

Prefacing a more detailed account of my time at HCIF, I want to begin by acknowledging the exceptional mentorship of Claudette Fonshell. Claudette is in charge of overseeing Whitehead interns, she continuously made me feel included, comfortable, and challenged by the work I was assigned. I never felt lost or overwhelmed during my internship in large part due to her sustained attention and her careful supervision. Claudette was not alone in her efforts to make my internship experience meaningful; every member of the HCIF staff showed me kindness and attentiveness. The organization’s size is incredibly conducive to a friendly and collaborative work environment. Over the past couple of months, I have had the immense privilege of getting to know every member of HCIF. At the start of my internship, I had one on one meetings with all staff members; these meetings were invaluable both personally and professionally. As a member of the Clinical Improvement team within HCIF working specifically with the Pennsylvania Urologic Regional Collaborative (PURC) and the Opioid Learning Action Network (LAN), the meetings gave me an opportunity to learn more about the Population Health Team. In addition to gaining insight on the work HCIF oversees, I gained insight on the many diverse career paths possible for individuals working in public health. Every staff member I interacted with had an interesting and unique professional background. 

I recognize that my time at HCIF was and is by nature incredibly unconventional. I joined the organization as it transitioned both in leadership and in operation. I witnessed first-hand how the non-profit gracefully shifted from an in-person setting to a fully remote environment. The Opioid Learning Network Action embodies the swift transition HCIF made when forced to operate remotely. Meetings that were formerly in-person shifted to webinars and virtual office hours. Additionally, HCIF recognized the immensity of COVID-19 and adjusted programming accordingly. Instead of operating in spite of the pandemic, HCIF worked closely with partnering practices to address the pandemic directly. 

HCIF responded gracefully not only to COVID-19 but also to the civil unrest that ravaged the country. I feel unbelievably lucky to be part of a conscientious organization that commits itself to advancing equity and social justice. During my internship, I joined the Anti-Racism Council (ARC) that formed as a result of the Black Lives Matter movement. The council dedicates itself to initiatives that actively combat racism– whether they be through language and education or through critical self-evaluation. Despite the heartbreaking racial injustices that have come to the fore this summer, this group of mission-driven individuals has restored some of my faith in institutional change. I am comforted by the knowledge that beyond my internship there is a team of passionate individuals working tirelessly to promote equity.

To summarize, I could not be more grateful for my Whitehead internship. I have had an, exciting, intellectually stimulating, challenging, and rewarding summer experience.