Looking Back, Looking Ahead

Awareness. Looking back, one of the biggest lessons this internship has taught me about the world of work is the importance of awareness. I’ve learned that with awareness – both awareness of self and awareness of others – comes transparent communication, cohesive teamwork, and an overall better work experience. With increased awareness, one also sets realistic expectations and meets problems with grace rather than frustration.

With today’s technology, it is easy to be aware of current events around the world. Thanks to accessibility of international news at the touch of a fingertip, we know how to handle certain situations by watching what did or did not work for others. For example, a physician or liver specialist who is aware of hepatitis B treatment guidelines may update a patient’s medication based on EASL recommendations. Besides awareness of the world, being aware of coworkers goes a long way, too. For instance, you may make your coworkers feel well supported if you inquire periodically about their project progress or do quality checks on their work. Additionally, being aware of people’s strengths and weaknesses can be handy for delegating responsibilities and ensuring efficient completion of long-term goals.

At my internship organization, self-awareness is essential in order to avoid burn out. I learned this lesson personally through my daily commute of 3-4 hours. Although health care is all about serving others, you cannot forsake taking care of yourself. For physicians at the Health Center who are pressed to give 15-30 minute examinations, they may experience a toll on their stress levels, mental well being, and physical health. Similarly, research associates and health educators also need to realize their own limits. Although deadlines for government documents, grants, and research proposals may not budge, they need breaks as well. Awareness of one’s shortcomings may lead to personal growth as one learns from mistakes, tries new approaches, and/or asks for help.

Speaking of self awareness… the following are some things that I have learned during this internship:

1. A NJ-NYC commute is tiring; ideally, it is best to live closer to your work site.

2. I work best when I make a tangible list of goals to accomplish everyday.

3. Speak up during meetings, respect others’ time, and take initiative to help out. Build a relationship with everyone you encounter. Be positive and work diligently without complaint.

4. What I appreciate about the Health Center is that outside of doing research, I’ve gotten to shadow a few health care professions. After much soul searching, I’ve finally settled on pursuing a career as a doctor of optometry (O.D.) – a fulfilling balance of one-on-one patient interaction, problem solving, and clinical care. I’ve had an inkling of interest from my own experiences with vision treatment/eye health. In the picture below, I saw a glimpse of how I might be able to serve the Asian American population in this field through shadowing an optometric physician at Charles B. Wang Community Health Center.

I’ve also picked up a skill or two:

1. The ability to conduct research surveys and strike up conversation with strangers. Data analysis using Microsoft Excel’s “filter” function and abstract writing techniques.

2. Confidence in brainstorming and proposing ideas during meetings, writing emails, and planning public health press conferences.

3. Increased fluency in Mandarin.

Looking ahead, I am excited to further advance my Mandarin skills and apply all that I’ve learned to my future endeavors.

-Michelle Yan ’19