St. Olaf College | News

New internship gives students a glimpse of life as a physician

Eliza Thompson ’17 (right) and Colten Yahn ’17 were the first St. Olaf students to participate in a new internship program designed by two alumni who want to give Oles an up-close look at the day-to-day work of a physician.

“Most students must make the decision to become a physician before they know what it is like to actually be a physician,” St. Olaf College alumnus and medical doctor Peter Stiles ’05 says.

So Stiles — along with his co-worker and fellow Ole physician Marc Tompkins ’99 — developed an internship that aims to give St. Olaf students an up-close look at the day-to-day work of a practicing physician.

The two doctors recently started an academic internship for two St. Olaf pre-medical students at their place of employment, TRIA Orthopaedic Center. Eliza Thompson ’17 and Colten Yahn ’17 were the first students selected for the program at TRIA, an orthopaedic and sports medicine practice located in Bloomington, Minnesota.

“Our internship is geared to expand the students’ minds, knowledge, and insight, while also providing a realistic look at the daily life of a practicing doctor,” Stiles says.

St. Olaf consistently prepares its students for a successful application process to medical school. The college’s Pre-Health Program, along with the Piper Center for Vocation and Career and the Health Professions Committee, provide resources and hands-on learning opportunities designed to prepare St. Olaf students for a career in medicine.

Marc Tompkins ’99 (left), an orthopaedic and sports medicine surgeon, and Peter Stiles ’05, an anesthesiologist and pain medicine specialist, created an internship for St. Olaf students at their place of employment, TRIA Orthopaedic Center.

Stiles and Tompkins started the TRIA internship to increase these opportunities for Oles — and as a way to “pay it forward.”

“I have always felt very fortunate for my St. Olaf education, including many opportunities provided by St. Olaf alumni, and I wanted a chance to both educate St. Olaf students and to give back,” Tompkins says.

The students were able to shadow the doctors in every aspect of the job, from forming meaningful relationships with patients to the more mundane tasks of filling out insurance paperwork. They also spent time discussing the practice of medicine, medical school, and the students’ goals and interests.

“Before this internship, I thought about a career as a physician as a sort of ‘dream’ and could really only imagine what it might look like,” Thompson says. “This internship helped me think through my interests and create a clearer vision for my future.”

Yahn agrees.

“This was the most impactful experience I have had thus far in my academic career,” he says. “It felt like a full immersion into health care. As a result, I really feel like I have a more complete understanding of the health care system.”

The internship is rewarding for the mentors as well.

“The students ask wonderful questions that get me thinking about important issues and remind me of the open-minded curiosity fostered at St. Olaf,” Stiles says.

The two doctors plan to continue the program into the foreseeable future.

“They are incredible professionals and better people,” Yahn says. “If nothing else, I would recommend this internship solely to encourage other students to meet these doctors. Their insight and mentorship will continue to be invaluable for my future career.”