Rockswold Health Scholars Program

Dr. Gaylan Rockswold ’62 and his wife, Mary Garnaas Rockswold ’63, have established an endowment and created a clinical and research internship program that provides current St. Olaf students an unparalleled hands-on experience at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, MN.  HCMC is known for its dedication to providing care to vulnerable, diverse, and underserved populations regardless of their ability to pay for medical services. According to Dr. Rockswold, “students would be exposed to the concept of healthcare as a service and as a calling to be a ‘healer’.” Students will expand their professional networks and improve their knowledge regarding potential paths within the healthcare field. Learn more about HCMC’s mission here

A unique aspect of this program includes the opportunity for selected participants to live in an apartment together in the spirit of support and mutuality.  Community living is intended to foster supportive relationships in an environment of reflection and intentionality. Students will work together to make decisions about grocery shopping, meals, apartment upkeep, and social activities.  As part of their commitment to learning from and with each other, participants will be expected to take part in a weekly community meal and community conversation.

Program Philosophy

The two Health Scholars programs are made possible by the generosity of distinguished alumni. The Rockswold Health Scholars program and the Health Scholars at the Mayo Clinic program are designed to support students in their vocational discernment within healthcare, provide an intensive internship opportunity to enhance their academic profile, and expand their professional network. As a cohort internship program, students will be selected on their ability to contribute positively to living in community. Competitive students have demonstrated their commitment to serving others, strong communication and teamwork skills, and the ability to take initiative. Additionally, students will be assessed on their fit with specific research projects, based on coursework, lab, and other experience. Preference is given to students with an academic profile that does not preclude admission to professional school, students who will be rising seniors, and students pursuing medicine (excluding the CDRG project and Public Health Rotations).

2020 Program Details

  • Dates: Tuesday, May 26 – Friday, July 31, ten weeks of hands-on experience
  • Deadline: Friday, February 14 at 11:59pm
  • Tracks: Clinical Rotations (two students), Research (four students), and Public Health (one student)
  • Stipend: $4,000 paid to each student
  • Housing: Macalester Grand Cambridge Apartments
  • Final project (paper, poster, presentation) to be determined by student and HCMC faculty mentor
  • How to Apply (see below)

Read Dr. Rockswold’s original proposal for a clinical and research experience at the Hennepin County Medical Center.

St. Olaf alumna Allison Christie ’96 describes in a thank-you message how interning with Dr. Rockswold her sophomore year at St. Olaf influenced her future career path.

Tracks (2020)

Clinical Rotations (mentors: Min Jeong Park Graf, MD & Walter Galicich, MD)

The goal of the clinical rotations experience is to provide students exposure and involvement in specific clinical areas such as emergency medicine, family practice, sleep medicine, various surgical specialties, and psychiatry.  Seeking students who are making progress towards medical school (on the pre-med track at St. Olaf).

During these clinical rotations students would be exposed to the diverse patient population served at HCMC as well as clinical providers including nurses, occupational and physical therapists, clinical pharmacologists, and many others.  In addition, the students would have opportunity to interact with physicians at many levels of their development including medical students, resident trainees early in their clinical exposure, as well as chief residents who are well advanced.


The goal of the research experience is to provide students with hands-on experience in a clinical laboratory setting. Seeking students who have completed scientific coursework with laboratory experience.

Selected students will choose a research experience from a variety of areas with experienced investigators supported by extramural funding.  The rotation will allow students to be exposed to biomedical research directly pertinent to patient care. The students may develop laboratory techniques, be involved in manuscript preparation, and have a general exposure to a research unit.

Students will work with a faculty mentor from HCMC. Projects/mentors for summer 2019:

Public Health (mentor: Aaron Rutzick, MD)

The goal of the public health experience is to provide students with firsthand exposure to public health programs offered through Hennepin County Health Systems, Inc. and in the community. This rotation is best suited for individuals interested in pursuing community and public health as a potential career path.

This rotation will be similar to the clinical rotations, but it will focus on several specific, award-winning health care programs unique to Hennepin County. Areas of rotation may include the Hennepin County Detention Center (Jail), the Health Care for the Homeless Project, team-based care model clinics like the Coordinated Care Clinic and Hennepin Health Access Clinic, and Aquí Para Ti  (clinic-based development program for Latino youth). The final research project can stem from one of these rotation areas, as the student intern collaborates with their mentor to determine their research project. Depending on the student’s area of interest, alternative projects may be available through additional public health sites.  The Public Health experience involves project work, shadowing, and interview experiences that can be tailored to fit an applicant’s personal interests. The ideal candidate is highly self-motivated, independent, and excited to help develop clinic-based projects. 

Read descriptions of the research, clinical rotations, and public health roles, written by former interns.

How to Apply

  • Current Junior or Sophomore or (Class of 2021 or 2022)
  • Good academic standing (minimum GPA of 3.0, not on academic probation or academically dismissed according to the Registrar’s Office and Dean of Students Office)
  • Students selected for an interview will be asked to complete the Consent and Disclosure Form
  • Students studying abroad during spring semester must have the ability to connect with program coordinators by internet in order to complete onboarding requirements before the program start date
Desired Qualifications

The selection committee will consider the following:

  • Ability to represent St. Olaf College in a mature, professional manner
  • Positive attitude and outlook, excellent interpersonal skills
  • Past related academic, research, and/or internship experience
Application Deadline and Process

This program’s application and interview process will be joined with the selection process for the Health Scholars Program at the Mayo Clinic. Professors Mary Walczak and Greg Muth will served on the selection committee. The Piper Center Pre-Health Coach will also be present for the interviews.

Students will apply through a video, Handshake, and a Google Form (see details below) by Friday, February 14. All three components are required for a complete application. 

  1. Two-Minute Video
    • Create a two-minute (or less) video addressing the following questions:
      • Tell us more about your interest in your top choice internship placement. Why do you believe this is the best internship placement for you, and how did you go about making that decision? What do you know about the hospital (Mayo or HCMC), and how does this knowledge contribute to your choice?
    • Students should consider this a formal video. Students are strongly encouraged to use the Video Recording Room in the DiSCO to create their videos. You can make reservations here. Students may also use their computers or phones, but they should make every effort to present themselves professionally wherever they create their video.
    • Upload your video to YouTube. You may make the video Public or Unlisted. If it is Unlisted, only people with the link will be able to view it. In your Google Form Application, we will ask you to provide the link to your video so the selection committee can see it. We will not share your videos with anyone else. For more information on YouTube and privacy settings, please click here
  2. Resume and Unofficial Transcript
    • In Handshake, upload your resume (one page) and your unofficial transcript (access SIS and save as a .pdf) and apply for the position. There is only one job listing on Handshake for both programs. Please apply to that job, regardless of your top choice placement.
  3. Fill out the Online Application (Google Form) 

Selected candidates will be invited to interview. Interviews will be 15 minutes in length. Students will be notified of status no later than the week of March 2.

Note: The St. Olaf orientation session for selected students will take place sometime in April. Selected students will participate in an orientation session at HCMC at the end of April or early May. St. Olaf staff will coordinate transportation for the orientation. Students should plan on 4-5 hours, during which they will travel to and from HCMC, complete paperwork required for HCMC to perform a background check, and meet faculty mentors.

Questions? Contact Mary Walczak (, Faculty Supervisor and Associate Dean for Natural Sciences and Mathematics, RNS 302A, or Katie Hughes, Associate Director, Piper Center, Career Development and Coaching (Pre-Health), TOH 270.