Over the last seven years as an Akron Children’s Hospital patient, Destiny Perryman, who has Type 1 diabetes, got to know the sixth-floor endocrinology office well.

She knows it even better after the last eight weeks.

The 17-year-old, who will be a senior at North High School, spent her summer at the front desk of her own doctor’s office, filing paperwork, cleaning exam rooms and calling patients to remind them of appointments.

“I always wanted to see the other side of the doctor’s office,” she said.

An eight-week internship gave her that opportunity. The program is a partnership between the hospital and Akron Public Schools’ North High. Akron Children’s, which was the first business to partner with the high school’s career academy, hired eight students this summer for internships to earn money and work experience in the health care field.

The program is exactly what Akron school officials hope comes of the growth of the College and Career Academies, which launch across all high schools this fall as a means to connect classroom material to students’ future career interests.

“It’s about bringing real-world experiences to students, exposure to potential career paths,” North High’s College and Career Academy coach Janice Weaver said. The high school has a career academy track centered on health care.

The hospital approached the school about the internships, Weaver said. This is the first year of the program, which also includes sessions on building leadership skills.

Bernett Williams, the hospital’s vice president of external affairs, said CEO Grace Wakulchik immediately recognized the need to pay the students, who earn $12 an hour for 20 hours of work each week.

“This is their summer work experience,” Williams said.

While they are potentially growing future hospital leaders, she said, it was just as important to prepare the students for any workplace they may enter.

“We want them to have a wonderful summer here,” she said. “We want them to learn. We want it to be professional.”

The eight students wrap up their summers this week with a presentation on Friday of research projects they conducted in addition to their time spent working in various departments across the hospital.

For some of the students, it was their first experiences in the working world.

“You’ve got to be on time for work,” 17-year-old So Ya Ma said, listing off the lessons she’s learned this summer. She and the other students also learned to navigate public transportation, with many of them riding the same bus each morning and afternoon from North Hill to the downtown hospital.

Each of them had to create a resume, apply for the job online and go through the interview process, just like any other hospital employee.

Ma’s job for the summer was to help Akron Children’s improve its services to patients and families by surveying them as they navigate the hospital. She collected data on whether it was their first time visiting the hospital, and how easy it was for them to find their appointment, or to find someone to ask for help.

“We see the trends of how many people get lost, where they get lost, and try to fix that,” Ma said.

She hopes to enter the health care field some day, she said, likely on the hospital administration side.

“I love helping people. I love seeing patients smile,” Ma said.

Nabin Chhetri, a 19-year-old who will be a senior at North, said he also hopes to enter the medical field, although his exact career choice may have changed as a result of his summer at Akron Children's.

Chhetri said he thought he wanted to be a doctor, but after working in the biomedical engineering department, he’s thinking about a career in that field.

“I always wanted to work at a hospital,” he said. “It’s my big dream.”

This month, Chhetri helped the staff conduct maintenance tests on the hospital’s 1,500 infuser pumps, which deliver medicine to patients.

“He’s doing the exact same thing the rest of my technicians are doing,” biomedical engineering manager Josh Zinkhon said.

Chhetri went through training through the internship to allow him to do the testing on the life-saving equipment.

“He came in and was very eager to learn,” Zinkhon said. “We knew he was going to be able to handle whatever we threw at him.”

As for Perryman, she has a new appreciation for the people she sees every time she has an appointment at Akron Children's.

"My doctor definitely works hard," she said.

 

Contact Jennifer Pignolet at jpignolet@thebeaconjournal.com, at 330-996-3216 or on Twitter @JenPignolet.