Left to right, top row: Sofia, Justin and Olivia Bottom row: Avneet, Mary and Alexandria
As anyone who has completed an internship knows, there is a moment before it begins when you wonder what the weeks and months ahead will be like. Questions such as,“Will this be a good experience?”, “Will my supervisor have time for me?” and “Will I have the opportunity to contribute and add value to the team?” cross your mind. Internships serve as a formal program to give practical experience for those who are at the beginning of their profession. For this year’s SOAAR summer interns, the experience exceeded their expectations.
“Coming into the internship, I expected to have a good amount of work and responsibility dealt to me, all the while learning a lot. My experience did not disappoint. I got a first-hand view of the world of research and all that it entails. I helped out with different aspects of studies from recruitment to the design of marketing material." – Sofia
"I expected to learn a lot about food allergy and epidemiological research, however, I learned so much more. This internship exposed me to an array of different projects that challenged me to leave my comfort zone each day." – Alexandria
A Variety of Perspectives
During a SOAAR internship, students learn how food allergy and asthma research are conducted from epidemiological, clinical and public health perspectives. By engaging with that research in a variety of tasks including data extraction, biostatistics, patient interviews, and grant and publication writing, students can better understand the entire research process. The interns also participated in the Smith Health Child Research (SHCR) Intern Group, which provided an opportunity to learn from a healthcare or policy professional during a scheduled weekly presentation.
"This internship provides students with the opportunity to see what it means to be a researcher and public health official. Dr. Gupta and the rest of the SOAAR team encourage students to take initiative and learn as much as they can." – Justin
“I learned many skills that I will use going forward, such as the importance of working in teams and delegating tasks. I’ve obtained a glimpse into the research world and all the details that go into making a study successful.” – Sofia
“Not only was I able to obtain a comprehensive picture of clinical research, I also observed cases during clinic that were directly related to what I’ve learned in medical school.” – Mary
“This past summer, I helped to create a study that will examine the economic impact of food allergy on a global scale, recruited patients for a study at the Chicago Family Asthma and Allergy Clinic, extracted data for the natural history of food allergy study, and worked in a lab where I learned to extract DNA from bacteria to identify strains. Being able to work with the SOAAR team on a variety of interesting projects had made this internship an amazing learning experience.” – Alexandria
Left to right, top row: Pamela, Joanna, Jesse, Justin, Sofia, Chris, Avneet, and Alexandria Bottom row: Ashley, Jolanta, Kathy, Lauren, Dr. Gupta, Jialing, Madeleine, and Brenda
During their first week, SOAAR interns identified which projects to support. Since SOAAR attributes a strength-based philosophy to work, each team member is given space to showcase strengths while simultaneously working to improve weaknesses. To maximize the internship experience, students were mentored by an assigned SOAAR staff member. This personalized approach enabled the interns to gain specific and valuable on-the-job training that will serve them well in future work environments.
"Practicing how to integrate human-centered design into a research and medical context was challenging work and this experience taught me a lot about interdisciplinary communication. Jolanta helped me think through what steps we should take in what order. Her positive and sincere nature served as a great model for how to approach challenging work". – Sasha
“My mentor taught me that organization is key, especially if you’re coming in toward the end of a project. I also learned it is better to take the time to develop a solid understanding of a project than to jump straight in.” – Mary
"This internship taught me professionalism, problem solving and organization skills that will be useful in any career. As an aspiring doctor and researcher, I have now seen many of the components that are required to produce successful results". – Olivia
“I focused predominantly on the Multi-Pen study which examines epinephrine carriage and usage practices amongst food allergic children, adolescents, and adults. I also continued my work on finalizing the Student Media-Based Health Research Team (SMHRT) curriculum. As I have been working on the manuscript, I am proud with how well my writing has been received. I am also proud of my new understanding of the advanced statistical tools we are using (specifically structured equational modeling) to analyze our data. In addition to the concrete statistical and writing techniques, I have learned about the nuances surrounding how to be a successful research and public health practitioner." – Justin
“This internship allowed me to better understand what goes behind the scenes in research. In the future, I want togo to medical school and this experience introduced me to a whole new field of medicine about which I want to learn more.” –Avneet
"This internship has shown me the significant positive impact research can have on patients’ lives--those you treat as well as those around the world." – Alexandria
“I am very proud of what we accomplished regarding the iASSIST study. When I began working on it, we knew what needed to be accomplished but needed to finalize the details. During the summer, we developed the study’s name, marketing materials, a protocol, a prototype for the product, and began a pilot study. Since June, we’ve made a lot of progress and I’m looking forward to seeing the study be implemented…Dr. Gupta took into account our different career paths and end goals and tailored our experience so that it was the most helpful to us" – Sofia
SOAAR Team/Office Culture and Environment
The interns noted that the SOAAR team is highly collaborative, caring, and respectful of everyone's opinions. Everyone has a voice, even the interns.
“The SOAAR culture is one of the best. I loved being in the office because it was a vibrant, dynamic environment filled with people who were always active in their work.” – Justin
“This group works as a true team. It’s amazing to see that everyone was always willing to help each other be successful. SOAAR knows how to get things done and does so while keeping the environment bright and happy.” – Sofia
“The team culture was extremely positive. Whenever I had questions, I could ask anyone in the office for help and guidance.” –Avneet
Left to right: Alexandria, Madeleine, Joanna, Kathy, Ashley, Sofia, Dr. Gupta, Sasha, Pamela, and Dr. Bilaver
Dr. Gupta's Expertise
SOAAR's collaborative philosophy is embraced by everyone on the team, including the director, Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH. In addition to learning from their assigned mentor, the interns worked with Dr. Gupta and benefited from her expertise. “One of my favorite parts of my job involves mentoring students about research methods, public health and medicine”, explains Dr. Gupta. “We educate them in how to ask questions and find answers for important health issues especially related to food allergy and asthma. We show them how they can help to have a positive impact on the health and lives of children and their families.”
“Dr. Gupta does an amazing job of following her research interests while balancing her involvement in clinic, etc. She has taught me that there is always time to pursue your passions.” – Mary
“Dr. Gupta is one of the most ‘yes’ people I know. She is always looking for ways to make things work and believes greatly in her team. Observing her internal motivation and certainty has been instructive and rewarding.” – Sasha
"Dr. Gupta's dedication to her research is inspiring. She taught me the importance of passion and dedication in anything you do. Dr. Gupta has shown me that it is possible to break through barriers caused by working in a male dominated profession. It is possible for a woman to successfully juggle a demanding high-powered position, family and still enjoy the little things in life." –Sofia
"I realized how busy Dr. Gupta was, yet she always kept a positive attitude and always helped us. Dr. Gupta taught me about time management and how you can do anything you set your mind to." – Avneet
Dr. Gupta's Thoughts About the 2017 Summer SOAAR Interns
"Our summer interns brought so much positive energy and enthusiasm to our team and reminded us of why we do what we do," says Dr. Gupta. "They contributed new ideas and questions and moved projects forward."
“We had the best group of students this summer and I am so proud of each one of them for their contributions to our SOAAR program mission and research,” adds Dr. Gupta.
How to Participate in the 2018 Summer SOAAR Internship Program
SOAAR interns have diverse backgrounds; many are aspiring clinicians and researchers while others are students who are interested in design and medicine. To apply for a position in next year’s program, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.