IAP Health Reflection: Kanoe

12 Interns, 4 Weeks, & 1 Meaningful Experience

So here’s what went down… 

This January, I served as a resources intern at the Autism Program at the Boston Medical Center. IAP came and went in a blur and though my time with the program was short, I learned so many valuable lessons about the healthcare industry and myself and made precious memories and connections along the way. 

Week 1: Getting started!

Sunday night, 10:something PM. I’m sitting in my room staring at the closet, double checking that my ~fancy~ business casual clothes are ready and mentally preparing myself for the next day. All of our trainings in the fall with the PKG center was leading up to my fateful first day at work and although I knew that the BMC staff are nice, warm, welcoming people, I couldn’t help but feel nervous. What am I going to be doing? Is my outfit enough? Should I be preparing something? Am I ready for this?

Monday morning orientation came and looking back, it’s silly how anxious I was. The BMC staff welcomed us with open arms and !!excitement!! that immediately made 801 Albany, our lovely office building, feel like home. After meeting with my project team including both of my team members and advisors, it was decided that I’d be responsible for creating a guide for families applying for secondary insurance. Despite not knowing anything at all about insurance, I was excited to learn something new and do my best to perfect a new skill.

With orientation over, we all went straight to work for the rest of the week and I dove deep into all of the complexities of insurance. After many hours of intense googling and reading through handbooks and insurance documents and more googling of the terms I didn’t understand, I compiled a very large document containing literally everything there was to know about MassHealth CommonHealth, the secondary insurance plan I was making the guide for. After two days of research, I began the process of narrowing down the information to what would be needed in the guide with the help of my advisor. 

Of course, there is more to work-life than work and during the week, I attended research talks and rounds. For the sake of keeping this blog post at a reasonable length, long story short, the research talks opened my eyes to where medicine was currently going and all of the rounds (pediatric, psychiatric, general internal medicine) showed me how doctors and other health professionals think. For all of the rounds I went to, a case was presented followed by a professional medical explanation as well as a consideration of other socioeconomic factors that contributed to the patient’s condition and being able to learn more and deeply consider this interaction was a powerful thought process that I’m glad to have experienced!

Week 2: The normalest week

By the time we hit week 2, a routine had been established. I’d come into the office around 8:30 AM, put my lunch in the fridge and make my morning cup of tea (which I started doing because it seemed like what people at an office job do), sit at my self-proclaimed cubicle, set-up my station, and get to work. Once 12 PM came, all the interns would take our lunch break and enjoy friendly conversation (which I looked forward to) before finishing our work for the day. 

At this point in the month, I completed my research and was now tasked with creating a table of price estimates that was easy to read–a task which isn’t as simple as it sounds simply because of how outright confusing insurance can be. Lucky for me, this was also a prime opportunity for me to apply some of my new 6.145 skills (which I was taking) to *drumroll please* define a function that would take family size, monthly income, and the type of applicant as an input and do all of the weird calculations to output a monthly premium estimate. While we didn’t end up using the code for anything, I was very excited to simply make it and see how what I was learning could be used in the “real world.”

Beyond that mini adventure, however, was the real highlight of my week: shadowing. Every intern gets the chance to shadow a physician at BMC and I got to sit in through five appointments. While some of the other interns got to watch the diagnosis of ASD, all of my appointments were follow-ups. I was lucky enough that my physicians schedule allowed for longer appointments, each one lasting around an hour, which allowed me to learn more about the child and the impact of the diagnosis on every family’s lives. During the appointment, I was responsible for keeping the children occupied and as someone who absolutely adores children, it was my pleasure to keep them entertained with legos or puzzles and at the end I even got a few hugs which made my day 🙂 As happy as the children made me, it also hit me hard when their parents described the struggles that they faced every day. Some families were familiar with the diagnosis and seemed very calm, but others weren’t and the desperation in their voices made me realize how impactful the work of physicians, the Autism Program, and even us interns is. These families only want the best for their children, but acquiring that isn’t an easy road. My shadowing experience was a meaningful reminder of who my work was for and not only did it inspire me to work harder, but it also changed my mindset and helped me to frame the information to make it as accessible as possible to my audience.

Week 3: Omgoose the deadline is next week

By now, I had begun the graphic design portion of creating my guide and as I slowly translated my research into comprehensible sentences and graphic organizers, the halfway point of IAP quickly creeped up. At the beginning of the week, we had a large group meeting where we all showed our progress to the group, asked for help and suggestions, and reevaluated our goals for the program. With the first draft of my guide done, I felt pretty good, but after the first few rounds of edits trickled in over the course of a few days, by the end of the week, there seemed to be little to no time left to finish the project. 

Just as a reminder since I didn’t mention this before, but all of the seminars and sessions continued to go on and were very educational and enjoyable. Additionally, all of us interns continued to get closer and closer and every interaction always made my day a little better. Even on the most stressful of days, I knew that the others were there to support me and I always enjoyed our conversations on the bus ride back together, chances to learn more and more about the amazing people around me.

Week 4: The last hurrah!

Before I knew it, it was already our last week in the office. My guide continued to undergo a series of reviews and revisions and with every new list of edits to make, the more nervous I’d get about meeting the deadline. However, with the support of my advisor, I was able to finish right on time and create a product that I can comfortably say that I’m proud of. It warms my heart knowing that my work will help make insurance more accessible to families who really need it and I’m happy to be able to give back a resource to the BMC staff who has given me so much.

At the very end, we had a celebration to show our work to the PKG staff and simply enjoy being together for one last time. While I am proud of my work, I’m amazed by what the other interns were able to accomplish and I’m so glad to have been a part of such a great cohort. As MIT students, we spend a lot of time gaining knowledge and developing the skills to make an impact and I’m grateful to both the PKG center and the Autism Program for giving me the opportunity to both implement my skills and develop new ones. As this is my first IAP, it doesn’t mean much to say that it’s been my best one yet, but I mean it when I say that it’ll be very hard to beat.

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