IAP Health Reflection: Mercy

Hi! My name is Mercy Oladipo, I’m currently a first-year student at MIT, and this IAP I had the opportunity to work as an intern in the Autism Program at Boston Medical Center through the PKG IAP Healthcare Immersion program. I remember first getting in to this program and being so excited (I literally cried lol). As I reflect now on the month I’ve had, there have certainly been some ups and down (keep reading to find out), but I can confidently say I’ve learned so much about the work, about myself, and about autism. 

Mercy with a sensory toolbox

So, let’s dive into this! Here at BMC, we really hit the ground running. I remember our second day here, we were already outlining our deliverables and getting into the work. I was on the Autism Friendliness Initiative project team and we had three main goals.

  1. Creation of an Application-Based “Social Stories” 
  2. Creation of an Autism Friendliness Initiative “Portal” (basically a teaching module for how to be autism friendly)
  3. Enhancement of BMC-based Autism Friendliness Initiative page/internal messaging to staff (its current layout is kind of messy and non-intuitive)

WEEK 1.

To start off, we all sat in a conference room and went through the above deliverables and started planning out our first steps. In the beginning, I was excited to work on making the social stories app because I designed an app in high school and I was hoping to learn how to do the actual coding part. But honestly, after our first team meeting, I was pretty nervous. I knew that Alex and my other supervisors knew about my app and part of me felt like maybe that’s the only reason they hired me. That’s where the imposter syndrome set in because the thing is I can’t really code, you know? I made my app on MIT App Inventor, a platform designed for beginners. I was nervous that once the BMC people realized I didn’t know how to do it by myself, I would be completely useless. 

To keep from facing this, I spent the first week and a half scouring the internet for app- and web-building platforms. I was confident in my ability to create a sleek and inviting design and I knew that these platforms would take care of the coding for me. 

Wait. Let me make something clear. I don’t want it to sound like I’m afraid of coding. I love to code. I just don’t have a lot of the technical skills right now and neither do the BMC staff, but I didn’t want to let them down. Anyways, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s get back to the story. 

I made several thorough documents explaining the functionalities of major app- and website-builders, their costs, etc. I even called companies to explain some of their different pricing options to see what would best fit our needs. Here’s where I ran into a problem that honestly became a theme this month. 

Communication.

I only had a very loose/basic idea of what Alex and the rest of the team wanted out of the portal and our other projects, so it was hard to try and find a builder when you don’t know the functionalities your product needs. It took around two weeks for them to give me a clear list of everything they wanted, which I think also impacted the amount and quality of the work I was able to accomplish. That being said, even when I was feeling useless, Alex and Shari kept reminding us of how impressed and happy they were with the work we were getting done so that was encouraging. 

WEEK 2.

By week 2, we had submitted our documents about all the cost estimates for the different app- and web-building platforms. Within a few days, Alex suggested we explore what we can do with the IT team instead since the builders were getting expensive. 

We had a meeting with IT and everything was looking good (I’d say my weather report was 65 degrees and cloudy; not bad!). IT basically said that we could finally make the edits to the website and the app, and that they had the capacity to create the portal. They even set us up for editor training! Plus, they gave us the code for the social stories app. Patricia took the leadership and was making very cute designs! At first, I was a little nervous to get involved because she seemed very invested and I didn’t want to step on her toes, but she was nice and kept offering to teach me how to do the CSS. I eventually took her up on the offer and it was fun! I missed coding, and this inspired me to go home and start a new website. 

By the end of week 2, it was kind of becoming clear who was taking leadership on which of the three deliverables (Patricia = app, Trevor = portal, Me = website). I made a few in-depth mockups of the website changes and that was fun. I realized I prioritize design over functionality.

WEEK 3.

By week 3, we had our website editor training from IT. Basically, we were told that we can’t code any edits because they would handle all of it. This was discouraging because coding was one of my main goals, but I was planning on putting my edits in the text editor as HTML just for practice. I made several new mockups this week and spent a lot of time waiting for feedback.

I made a very thorough document of all the changes we wanted to incorporate and made sure it followed the template of IT. Now, we wait.

WEEK 4.

I made a mockup for the portal to help Trevor achieve the aesthetic I envisioned. We probably should have been more collaborative, but I like designing in PowerPoint. I was getting stressed at this point because other people were meeting their deliverables and I felt like I was underperforming. By Thursday, I was really stressing and feeling like everything I was producing sucked. I stayed in the office until almost 6 pm just trying to create a design I was happy with. I realize now that I am a perfectionist and that is something I need to work on. By the end of the day, I created a new mockup and feel a little readier to present something at this showcase. 

The final mockup

This morning (Friday, our last day), I had my check-in with Alex and it went very well. He’s easy to talk to and has been a great supervisor. He made me feel very valued and like I did accomplish something this month even though I can be hard on myself and tell myself that I wasted a month or negative things like that. He even offered me the opportunity to work remotely on this project to whatever extent I was comfortable, and I accepted!

This experience has been one of self-discovery whether through the breadth of clinical opportunities (my favorites were shadowing in the DBP clinic and going to the caregiver focus group), the flexibility of the work that we do (learning what times and conditions I work best; SUNLIGHT in case you were wondering), or really making the most of my T-pass (I explored SO many Boston neighborhoods like South End, Back Bay, Roxbury, East Boston, Fenway, etc.). I am so grateful and can’t wait to take this energy into second semester! 

P.S. Also, I forgot to mention that one of my main goals was to learn more about ASD and I have definitely achieved that! I even got to supervise two autistic teens during this month, which was a valuable experience. I’m ready to advocate!

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