UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica (Daniel Archuleta daniela@smdp.com)

MID-CITY — At my first internship, I had to call every surrounding bar in the phonebook for an article that my boss was writing. Nathan Stumpf got to dress a wound.

The Care Extender Internship Program, which started at UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, gives college students with relatively little experience a chance to see how the inside of a hospital works.

Stumpf, a Santa Monica College student, has been in the program since August. He entered college as an engineering major and took his first biology class because it was one of the few honors classes available.

“I just really fell in love with it from an engineering standpoint,” he said. “If you look at it at a molecular level, the cells and everything, it works like a tiny machine. That really fascinated me: looking at the body as more of a machine that can be fixed.”

Stumpf’s parents are artists; he has little medical background aside from his life science classes but, because the unpaid internship values character traits as much as experience, he found himself inside a hospital.

“I didn’t expect to get in,” he said.

It should be noted that neither Stumpf nor any of the other roughly 550 students enrolled in the program are the ones who will be performing your open-heart surgery. They work as assistants: greeting patients and their families or running errands for doctors. It provides a sense of what it’s like to work at a hospital.

And while they won’t be making any major diagnoses while they are in the program, they may one day: It’s estimated that 85 percent of the graduates go on to pursue medical careers.

“This program really helps validate that this is something I’m interested in,” Stumpf said.

Now he wants to study nanotechnology and biophysics.

The one-year program is split into four segments. A care extender might start as a greeter, then move on assisting in the orthopedic department or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

While Stumpf has had the opportunity to dress a wound under the watchful eye of a physician, the most intense moments have come as a greeter.

“Greeting is something that’s taken for granted,” he said. “You think that you’re just saying hi but there’s people coming in, they just caught a flight, they just came out of a taxi, they need to get to the ER, and you’re the only person they’re seeing between all this mess they went through and the person they came to visit.”

Admissions are rolling. Every three months they start a new competitive application process. And every three months hundreds of young people show up hours early for their  interviews dressed to the nines.

Rachel Einarsson, a Santa Monica resident, was one of the many who just applied for the most recent round. She wants to be an obstetrician.

“It was actually kind of nerve wracking because you went into the room and there were four interviewers in the room and you only got five minutes with each interviewer and then you rotated with the next one,” she said. “They were just rapid-firing questions at you.”

Apparently Einarsson handled the rapid-firing well and found out a few days later that she’d been accepted. She hasn’t been assigned a specific department yet but she’s shooting for the NICU, labor and delivery, and postpartum sections — anything associated with obstetrics.

She also wants to use it as on opportunity to observe other fields, like oncology, to see if they might interest her.

“I don’t think opportunities like this are that common especially for someone as young as me who doesn’t have any medical background or training yet” Einarsson said. “I’ve only done undergrad. It is a unique opportunity to get to actually have patient and physician interaction.”

 

dave@smdp.com

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