A medical internship that provides in-depth experience

St. Olaf College students Taylor Knopf ’18 (left) and Morgan Turk ’18 (right) consult with Chris Johnson ’76 during their internship at Consultative Health and Medicine.

St. Olaf College students Taylor Knopf ’18 and Morgan Turk ’18 are getting a glimpse into the day-to-day work of a physician through an internship created by Chris Johnson ’76.

A practicing physician and adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota, Johnson designed the internship to provide St. Olaf students with an experiential and educational opportunity. The students are shadowing Johnson and members of his Consultative Health and Medicine team as they visit with the patients and family members in Twin Cities assisted living and skilled nursing facilities.

“The internship is set up as an educational opportunity to engage students early on and provide them with a depth of experience and understanding that enhances their application and interviewing for medical school,” says Johnson, who works with the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career to provide the opportunity to students.

It’s one of a number of pre-health internships that the Piper Center supports in an effort to provide St. Olaf students with in-depth experience in the health care field.

The mission at Consultative Health and Medicine is to deliver attentive, relationship-based, compassionate medical care that maximizes the health, comfort, and quality of life seniors experience as a resident of these communities.

“Everything we do at Consultative Health and Medicine is about establishing a relationship with the patient and the family,” says Johnson.

Knopf and Turk have spent approximately 18-20 hours per week for seven weeks shadowing and working with Johnson and nurse practitioners, consulting with patients, their families, and other health care providers. The internship emphasizes the opportunity to learn and practice skills in medical interviewing and physical examination.

“Every patient is interesting and endearing in their own way, so each day brings new challenges and surprises,” says Turk. “One surprise has been that the most difficult part is often speaking with the family and helping them understand the realities of their loved one’s disease. I’ve learned a lot about how to navigate difficult and emotional conversations, which I think is a crucial skill in practicing medicine.”

Every day Knopf and Turk go to a different memory care/assisted living facility and care for patients that need to have a certain problem addressed or just need a check up. They get to be active in the physical exam process by completing blood pressure readings, listening to heart and lung sounds, and using the otoscope to examine the ear.

“I have tried to model it on what they can expect to experience during their medical school clinical rotations,” says Johnson. “We visit with patients and families each day and then take time to discuss interesting aspects of what we learn from each person we see. The interns have an opportunity to do patient interviews and basic physical examination. There is also time to learn about the business and regulatory aspects of today’s healthcare.”

Knopf is considering a career that involves dementia care, a high priority for the Consultative Health and Medicine facilities.

“I was interested in working with Dr. Johnson because the opportunity to work at Consultative Health and Medicine allows me to see a variety of ways that health care professionals interact with their patients on a daily basis,” says Knopf. “I was also excited to receive the wisdom that Dr. Johnson and his staff could share on the topics of geriatrics, dementia, and provider-patient relationships, since this institution is dedicated to building relationships with their patients.”

Turk is also interested in the primary care aspect of working at Consultative Health and Medicine as well as working with geriatric patients, a field that involves the care of elders through focus on managing symptoms and increasing quality adjusted life years.

“Dr. Johnson is an incredible teacher with a friendly team; it has been an amazing summer working with his company!” says Knopf.