St. Olaf College | News

Mayo Clinic internship provides up-close look at world of medicine

Nicki Youngberg ’15 at Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center, where she interned this summer.

Many St. Olaf College students pursue internships as a way of discerning their future career paths. But for Nicki Youngberg ’15, an internship at Mayo Clinic’s Dan Abraham Healthy Living Center (DAHLC) affirmed the ideas she already had about life after St. Olaf.

“I have always had a passion to help others and have always known that I want to go home at the end of my day knowing I made an impact on someone’s life,” says Youngberg. “Health and wellness have been ingrained in my lifestyle since I was young, and studying abroad in Denmark — one of the healthiest countries in the world — through a St. Olaf program last semester further solidified my desire to help people on their journey to wellness.”

This summer Youngberg worked as the worksite wellness intern in the DAHLC, an innovate branch of Mayo Clinic that provides state-of-the-art resources and programs to help patients enjoy a positive lifestyle that incorporates the best practices of exercise and nutrition. Mayo Clinic, which is distinguished by its emphasis on integrated care, research, and education, is widely regarded as one of the best medical practices in the world.

Through the St. Olaf Piper Center for Vocation and Career, Youngberg arranged to receive academic credit for her internship, and she worked with Associate Professor of Exercise Science and Volleyball Head Coach Cindy Book to bring an academic framework to her experience.

As part of St. Olaf’s commitment to supporting students as they navigate potential career paths, the Piper Center offers numerous resources to help students secure internships that will enrich their studies and help them hone their professional skills. Last year 151 students earned academic credit for their internships. In addition to providing students with the ability to register their internships for academic credit, the Piper Center offers students funding for unpaid or underpaid internships.

Creating a culture of healthy living
During her internship, Youngberg worked to administer health programs at the Mayo Clinic that create a culture of healthy living in the workplace.

“It was busy!” Youngberg says. “I helped develop and enhance the DAHLC worksite wellness social media sites, provided presentations to different work groups on various aspects of wellness, developed population-based wellness campaigns, maintained all of the resources for the Wellness Champion Program, and worked on many different committees that promote wellness in the Mayo and Rochester community.”

Youngberg says that because of her internship, she now knows with certainty that she wants to pursue a career in health care.

“I had the opportunity to shadow multiple people working in the health care system, and the fast-paced environment is exciting and challenging,” she says.

Finding a new perspective on wellness
Her internship also enabled Youngberg to attend the Mayo Clinic’s Holistic Wellness Conference, which featured Dr. Henry C. Emmons, a consulting psychiatrist at St. Olaf’s counseling center, as a speaker.

Youngberg says the conference, which aimed to show the role of body, mind, and spirit in health and wellness, made her realize that though Western medicine is not to be disregarded, it is not the “end-all-cure-all.”

At the end of her internship, Youngberg helped organize and run the Mayo Clinic Healthy Human Race Weekend, a combined half-marathon and expo event dedicated to preventative wellness and health. The expo featured such guest speakers as Kathrine Switzer, the first woman to run the Boston Marathon, and eight-time Olympic speed skating medalist Apolo Ohno.

“From these experiences I really honed in on the type of work I like,” Youngberg says. “Being able to walk away from the internship knowing what kind of work I enjoy, the kind of individuals I want to interact with on a day to day basis, and the environment I thrive in is a great place to be at the beginning of my senior year.”