Student interns get hands-on experience at the VCU Health Hub at 25th
Gabrielle Levy and Victoria Chege engage with Richmond’s East End residents and bring fresh perspectives to the hub.
The VCU Health Hub at 25th has welcomed student interns since the facility opened in 2019. One of the hub’s goals is to be an experiential learning hub for undergraduate and graduate students, providing them with real-world experience in a community-based setting. Interns at the hub can expect to learn cross-disciplinary and interprofessional skills that will help set them up for future success in their careers.
In spring 2022, Victoria Chege and Gabrielle Levy, both seniors majoring in health, physical education and exercise science, interned at the VCU Health Hub at 25th. Chege and Levy were encouraged to apply for the internship by Maghboeba Mosavel, Ph.D., interim director and internship supervisor for the VCU Health Hub at 25th.
Levy found Mosavel listed as affiliate faculty while researching the Center for Cultural Experiences in Prevention. When she reached out about an internship, Mosavel recommended the VCU Health Hub at 25th, and Levy interviewed a few days later. As an intern, she was responsible for a wide range of tasks, from watching the front desk, answering phone calls, greeting visitors and connecting them to resources, filing paperwork, passing out flyers, taking minutes for meetings and creating slide decks for presentations.
Chege initially reached out to Mosavel regarding a research assistant position. Mosavel, who already had a graduate research assistant that semester, also suggested for Chege to intern at the hub. The next semester, Chege applied for and accepted the position. She split her internship hours between research and facilities support on an as-needed basis. As a research assistant, Chege examined oral health disparities data and assisted with identifying themes based on narratives from interviews with community members.
Levy and Chege dived into their roles on day one. Their first project involved collecting recipes from East End community members in hopes of eventually sharing the recipes on the hub’s community recipe wall. To collect these recipes, Levy and Chege spoke with visitors in the VCU Health Hub at 25th reception area and customers at The Market@25th next door. Community members were happy to share their recipes and the familial stories that accompanied them.
With guidance from their on-site supervisor, the interns also pursued other projects, from creating an informational oral health stand detailing the recent Medicaid expansion to planning and sourcing new hygiene kits to distribute to East End residents. Some of these projects were fully executed, while others required extended time in the exploratory and community engagement phases. Based on their ground experiences and engagement with community members, the interns were able to develop recommendations which they shared at their final presentation to the VCU Health Hub at 25th team, including community ambassadors.
“It is wonderful having interns at the VCU Health Hub at 25th. They often come in with expectations but then they learn that sometimes with this work, you just have to observe, listen, and immerse yourself in the environment,” Mosavel said. “Students begin to understand that there is so much to learn, even if they came in thinking they already knew a lot. Well, the truth is they do learn a lot in the classroom, but at the VCU Health Hub at 25th they have an opportunity to experience community. Both the community as in the hardworking, caring team at the hub, the different community providers, and of course, most especially the community residents. So for me, it is very exciting to see that transformative process of learning and application coming together.”
VCU Health Hub at 25th interns are highly encouraged, with supervision, to engage with the community while pursuing their individual interests. Learning in a hands-on environment was important to Chege, who previously interned at a research lab.
“I knew I wanted something that was more community-focused,” said Chege, who was also a research assistant, resident assistant and member of three committees while attending VCU. Chege, who will attend graduate school in the fall and has aspirations of becoming a health policy analyst, said the VCU Health Hub at 25th internship prepared her for a lot of things that graduate school covers, including social determinants of health and decision-making policies.
The hub’s prominent community focus means that active listening is critically important and highly informative. It is a key component to collaborating with community members and partners to create truly community-informed programming. Sometimes, community input means that certain projects must be reworked before they are ready to be announced. Rather than viewing delays as failures, the internship helps students view them as opportunities for learning and growth.
“I’ve learned how tricky it can be to complete a project you’ve envisioned in a professional setting. It’s very different from projects I’ve done for my classes and requires much more patience and revision, especially when there are other partnerships involved,” Levy said.
“A lesson I’ll take with me is that despite the outcomes you’re learning more than you realize. I absorb so much just by being in this environment.”
The VCU Health Hub at 25th offers spring, summer and fall internships. To apply for a student internship, contact the VCU Health Hub at 25th at (804) 628-6401 or email@example.com.