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Summer Internships at Reading Hospital Help Prepare Students for Clerkship Rotations and Beyond

August 9, 2023

By Lisa Ryan

Shadowing physicians and assisting with research at Tower Health – Reading Hospital over the summer has been more than a way to pad résumés or pass time, said medical students who wrapped up their participation in an internship program earlier this month.

Reading Hospital has long offered an internship program for medical students, as well as undergraduate students interested in pursuing medical school. This year, Reading Hospital and the Reading Hospital Foundation were joined as program sponsors by the Berks County Medical Society and Drexel University College of Medicine at Tower Health. In addition to shadowing Reading Hospital physicians and assisting with research, students learned from a lecture series covering topics like medical ethics or a day in the life of a medical resident.

Applicants were chosen for the program via blind review, meaning the selection committee does not know where prospective interns study, among other identifying information. And although research experience will help strengthen MD students’ residency applications in the future, the program has even more to offer participants, said Wei Du, MD, Tower Health’s senior vice president of academic affairs and chief academic officer and designated institutional official.

Du, who is also the chair of the Department of Psychiatry and a professor of psychiatry, and pharmacology and physiology at Drexel University College of Medicine, said it was gratifying to see the program build on current ties between the College of Medicine at Tower Health and Reading Hospital.

“The faculty members are pleased to have the opportunity to influence or guide students, including helping MD students decide what career they may choose,” Du said. “It's a magic moment for students to realize, ‘I want to do psychiatry,’ ‘I want do surgery,’ ‘I want to do emergency medicine,’ or even deciding, ‘psychiatry is not for me, I need to go into family medicine.’ And without being exposed to those work environments, their decision-making isn’t as well-informed.”

Students were grateful for the early introduction to the hospital where they will undertake all of their third- and fourth-year clinical rotations, which several of the MD Program summer interns will begin in the fall.

“Hopefully we won't feel as much like fish out of water when we start our rotations, because we had the opportunity this summer to work with patients,” said Hannah Daley, class of 2026. “We got to learn new skills and use things we’d learned in our first- and second-year curriculum to interview patients, and practice presenting patients to residents or doctors like we will during clinical rotations.”

Daley spent the six-week internship program splitting time between shadowing OB/GYN providers and assisting with research projects, including one following up on potential links between patients’ mammogram findings and later cardiac health.

As a medical student considering specializing in OB/GYN, Daley enjoyed the hands-on learning.

“It's been interesting to see how academic concepts translate to practice, because not everything is done the same way or done how you’d expect compared to when you learn it in a textbook,” she said. “Early on in medical school, it's hard to be able to focus your interests on a specialty unless you’re able to go into the hospital and see it yourself. It’s been great to see what the day-to-day life is like in that program and talk with the residents about their experiences.”

With the College of Medicine at Tower Health just a short walk away from Reading Hospital, it was easy to balance independent work on the project with visits to the project’s physician investigators, Daley said. Her classmate and co-investigator on the research project, Maggie Feng, class of 2026, was also excited about her summer experience at the hospital.

“I know there are many opportunities for hands-on learning in Philadelphia, but programs like this internship, and the hospital being so close and accessible to us in general, makes a huge difference in terms of what Drexel students can do on the West Reading campus,” Feng said. “Building relationships at Reading Hospital is something very beneficial about being a student here.”

Aspiring emergency medicine physician Nikki Rimlinger typically would not have gotten to work in Reading Hospital’s emergency department until her fourth-year clinical rotations but gained early exposure through her summer internship. Rimlinger, also of the class of 2026, was in the emergency department for shadowing as well as for a study done in conjunction with students at Penn State Hershey.

“I'm doing a project on emergency medical services (EMS) versus emergency department provider opinions about whether patients were brought appropriately to the emergency department, or whether they could have been seen at an alternative care site like urgent care or their primary care physician,” she said.

“There's still a lot that needs to be done with this study, but it's been cool to see how it has played out so far and what is likely to come of it,” Rimlinger continued. “As I've been doing this, I've been coming up with other research questions that might be important to ask after the team concludes the study. And I'm excited to present and show everyone what I've been working on this summer, because I've had a fun time collecting this data.”

Du said he is already looking forward to seeing how the internship program expands in future summers, and what new ways program organizers will find to provide current and aspiring medical students with unique hands-on learning opportunities.

“Hopefully even more medical students from Drexel will feel this is a great way to spend their summer and find it’s also a way to recharge and start the new academic year,” he said.