Saying Goodbye to the Women’s Center for Wellness

Although it seems as though my first day as an intern was just yesterday, in reality I have already completed 9 weeks at Women’s Center for Wellness! It is truly unreal to think about how quickly my time here flew by. On my first day, I was very shy and somewhat overwhelmed by the new environment. In fact, it seemed as though everyone was speaking another language – there were so many medical terms and abbreviations flying around that I had to wonder how I would ever understand what was going on around me.  Well, as it turned out, my wonderful mentors soon helped me learn all about breast health, anatomy, and the systems in place that ensure women get the best care possible. To me, this was one of the most rewarding aspects of my internship; I am glad that I was able to learn so much about women’s health in such a short time. For example, I learned how to read the radiologist’s reports and decipher the corresponding BI-RADS codes to gain valuable insight into a patient’s case. I also feel as though I’ve learned how to quickly make a connection with a patient, so that they have a pleasant experience getting their mammogram. Because so many patients dread going in to see a doctor, I think learning how to provide the best personal experience possible will serve me well in my future as a medical professional.

This experience has taught me so much, and I hope to use my new knowledge to educate people about the misconceptions surrounding breast health, anatomy, and mammograms. It turns out that there is a lot of misinformation or questionable information surrounding these topics. With my first-hand experience, perhaps I can take an active role in Brandeis’s student activities by joining a club that can help me spread awareness.

Now that I have learned so much in this field, I would really like to continue working in women’s health. Although my time at Women’s Center for Wellness taught me a lot, I’m sure I have much more to learn. For example, I would love to learn more about how radiologists spot worrisome inconsistencies on patient’s mammograms, especially when the area of interest may be no more than a pinprick in size. It constantly amazes me that they can save someone’s life simply by looking very closely at an image. I am also eager to begin researching a related topic that has piqued my interest. I was recently informed that in 2009 the United States Preventative Task Force issued a statement claiming women should begin getting their yearly mammograms at age 50, not 40. There has been much disagreement and criticism surrounding this statement, and it has caused a decline in women under 50 getting mammograms. Unfortunately, Connecticut has the second highest rate of breast cancer in the country, so this relatively new statement may be hurting women who are walking around with undiagnosed breast cancer. This fall, I plan on performing in-depth research on this issue, and I’m sure I will learn even more about breast health in the process.

If I were to give a student seeking an internship at this organization any advice, I would tell them to be open to and actively seek out new perspectives and opportunities. I think my experience was enhanced by the fact that I tried to get to know as many people in my organization as possible, regardless of occupation. I quickly found that every position, no matter how far out of my range of interests it seemed at first, helped me develop a better idea of how a medical organization functions, what problems it encounters, and what solutions are sought. This is information that can help anyone in the medical field be a better, more valuable worker regardless of the area of specialization. Furthermore, anyone working in this field must always remember that the focus is on the patient, and therefore it is important to be as kind, compassionate, and smiling as possible. I believe that this advice can really be applied to any facility in the industry. No matter how you happen to be feeling that day, someone is relying on you to make their experience pleasant! A positive attitude is truly a great asset in this field, and I think I did a good job of conveying my positive attitude as an intern. While I am sad to be leaving the Women’s Center so soon, I feel proud to have met so many amazing people and am glad that I have had a lasting impact on them, as well!

A Day in the Life (of an Intern!)

I have officially spent five weeks interning at Women’s Center for Wellness, which means I’m a little over halfway done! It’s amazing to think how quickly my time here has flown by. I have had so many interesting learning experiences during my short time here. I’ve observed a stereotactic biopsy, a breast ultrasound, mammograms, and worked closely with our resident nurse practitioner, who provides preventative care for under-insured or uninsured women in the Connecticut area. I love meeting new patients and knowing that I am helping in whatever way I can to ensure they maintain or improve their health. When I submitted my WOW application, I had one reasonable but very important goal to attain during my internship: I wanted to learn how to confidently interact with patients, which is a skill that is vastly underrated by many healthcare providers. No matter how skilled a healthcare provider is, a patient will never be satisfied if they feel that they weren’t treated well. So for the past five weeks, I have worked hard to learn how to interact with patients in a way that is professional and informative, yet also comforting and personal. I feel that this is a skill that will help me throughout my career, and I think I’ve made a lot of progress on this goal. At the beginning of my internship, I was quite shy, but now I am confidently working with patients. Although it is not entirely scientific, I can usually gauge my growth in this area by how easily I can accomplish certain tasks, such as accommodating a patient with special needs. At this point, working with patients has become almost second nature to me!

The work station – lots of monitors and notes!

I am also learning a lot about the field I am in (specifically breast health and imaging) and the way my organization operates. I think one of the most telling signs that I am becoming a valuable part of the organization is when I am able to help a radiology technician figure out what happened with a particular patient or how a case was resolved. I am proud of this because it shows me that I can integrate all the things I’ve learned here in a way that helps both the patient and the technicians, rather than only understanding bits and pieces of what goes on around me. It’s very exciting to know that I am learning more and more as I gradually become immersed in the organization.

Checking to see if any patients have arrived


I hope that my increased awareness of the biology behind breast cancer will help me in my academic career where it pertains to hard science. Seeing cancer firsthand is much different than reading about it in textbooks, because I get to see all the other ways it can affect an individual. I am also lucky to have a firsthand perspective of the American health care system and how it can affect an organization such as Women’s Center for Wellness. I feel that I am supplementing what I learned in my HSSP courses with real-life experience. I am also slowly gaining the skills to be a successful health care provider by learning how to interact with patients and seeing how various procedures are performed.  Now, I can only hope that my remaining few weeks with Women’s Center for Wellness will be just as educational as the first five!

What I learned my first week at Women’s Center for Wellness!

Women’s Center for Wellness (WCW) is a relatively small facility located in South Windsor, CT. WCW is part of a larger organization of health care providers called the Eastern Connecticut Health Network, or ECHN. The mission of WCW is to provide comprehensive health care to (primarily) women of all ages and backgrounds. The organization focuses specifically on services such as mammography, bone density analysis, breast ultrasound,

Patients get these goody bags filled with informational leaflets and chocolate after their mammogram.
Patients get these goody bags filled with informational leaflets and chocolate after their mammogram.

and digital breast biopsies. In addition to these services, WCW provides alternative care that focuses on holistic health and involves services such as diet counseling, massage therapy, yoga, and even acupuncture. The result is that WCW offers a holistic approach to managing women’s health.

My responsibility as an intern is to assist various departments with tasks that the faculty may not have time to perform when the facility is overwhelmed with patients. While many of these are clinical tasks, some are clerical. Though I will likely work within different specialties throughout the summer, this week I worked primarily with the radiology technicians. The technicians perform mammograms, bone density scans and ultrasounds. Part of my responsibility is to be a liaison between the technicians and the patients by preparing them for their procedure. I also ensure that the required paperwork is compiled so that the technicians may have all the necessary documentation prior to beginning the procedure. As my internship progresses, I will have more responsibilities, such as setting up examination rooms prior to a procedure.

For my own benefit, I have also personally observed some of these procedures so that I have a greater understanding of how the organization operates and how its services are meant to help people. Because this week was somewhat less busy, I also found myself doing some clerical tasks that are necessary to complete. However, even these tasks gave me insight on how the organization operates. For example, I had to create folders with various pamphlets and informational leaflets for Breast Care Collaborative. This is a program that helps work with patients after they have received a breast cancer diagnosis. The folders provide information from the Susan G. Komen Foundation that helps explain the next steps that the woman can take after being diagnosed. It has become clear to me that a large part of running an organization such as WCW is ensuring that patients have sufficient information to make educated decisions about their health.

I feel very fortunate to have found this internship. I began my search for an internship by looking for postings in my local hospitals and health care facilities. I quickly found that official postings were difficult to find. I decided to take a different approach and personally address the representatives of various facilities to find out whether they had unlisted internships. I even proposed that if such a position did not exist, that the organization may create an unpaid internship position so that I might work with them. Luckily, Women’s Center for Wellness accepts students for the summer as interns. My supervisor received my e-mail and invited me to become an intern after a short interview because it was clear that it was a good fit.

This summer I hope to really absorb a lot of information through this internship. I already feel like I have learned a lot, but I want to gain an in-depth understanding of not just the procedures that are performed at WCW, but also how the organization operates as a whole. I also hope to learn to be able to interact with patients, because that is a large part of being a health care provider. I have high hopes for the rest of the summer!

– Alex Zhakov ’14