St. Olaf College | News

Medical internship program makes room for researchers

Participants in the medical internship program at HCMC this summer include (back row, from left) Chris Paradise ’14, Adam Hadro ’14, Gaylan Rockswold ’62 (the HCMC neurosurgeon who created the program), Maggie Flint ’14, (front row, from left) Liza Mussatto ’14, Tanya Bovitz ’14, and Jackie Rath ’14.

This summer, Adam Hadro ’14 is working with Hennepin County Medical Center researcher Marco Pravetoni to examine how vaccines might help prevent drug addiction.

Maggie Flint ’14 is working alongside HCMC clinical chemist Fred Apple to study a protein that is used to diagnose heart attacks.

And Tanya Bovitz ’14 is working with HCMC cardiologist Charles Herzog to determine how patient data can provide better insight into administrative medical diagnosis codes and practices.

All three St. Olaf College students are participating in a new research portion of a hands-on medical program that was established between HCMC and St. Olaf last summer. The program enables a select group of St. Olaf students to work alongside highly regarded medical professionals at one of the state’s premiere trauma hospitals.

In addition to the three research positions, the program also provides opportunities for three other students to explore the daily work of both physicians and hospital administration. This summer Chris Paradise ‘14 and Jackie Rath ‘14 will be doing clinical rotations at HCMC as part of the program and Liza Mussatto ‘14 will be working in public health administration.

“There’s an excitement in knowing that each day brings new situations and challenges for leaders of a health care system,” says Mussatto.

Gaining hands-on experience
The program between HCMC and St. Olaf was created through the support of Gaylan Rockswold ‘62, a highly distinguished neurosurgeon at the hospital who wanted to give students the opportunity to work with physicians and administrators in a variety of departments.

He and his wife, Mary Garnaas Rockswold ‘63, established an endowment last year to help fund the summer program, which aims at providing undergraduate students with the type of training and immersion that would have been unimaginable when Rockswold was a student.

Students in the program live together in a learning community and are invited to attend lectures and conferences typically reserved for medical school students and residents. They also get the opportunity to practice simulations and even watch doctors perform surgeries.

Rath says the program is a good way for students to test whether they are truly committed to a career in medicine.

St. Olaf Professor of Chemistry Mary Walczak, who serves as the director of the HCMC program, agrees. “Students this summer should have a clearer idea about what they want to do with their lives in terms of health care and have one or more plans about what they do immediately after graduation,” she says.

Looking to the future
The three students who participated in the HCMC program last summer — Daniel Dyer ‘13, Erin Kelly ‘14, and Andrew Sathoff ‘13 — are positive that a career in the health care field is right for them.

Dyer will attend Creighton University’s School of Medicine in the fall, while Sathoff will be in the China Fellows Program and plans to pursue a master’s degree in immunology afterward. Kelly, who focused on public health during her time at HCMC, is currently doing an internship in health care finance at Optum Health Financial.

The early success and popularity of the HCMC program — this year 89 students applied for the six positions — has prompted St. Olaf to begin thinking about ways it could expand even further. With HCMC limited in the number of St. Olaf students it can take each summer, Walczak says the college may look into establishing partnerships with other hospitals around the region as well.

“This is a very exciting program,” Walczak says, “and it’s clearly something of interest to Oles.”