We are continuing our blog series featuring students who worked or had internships in their field this past summer! This week, we spoke with Izze Billet (’21), a biological sciences who worked at the Children’s Hospital of Orange County (CHOC). Izze shared her leadership experiences and the transition the program had to make during the pandemic. She also offers advice for other students looking to apply.
Schmid College: Tell me about your work experience this summer!
Izze Billet: This summer, I programmed and led the CHOC Medical Intelligence and Innovation Institute (MI3) Summer Internship alongside six other lead interns: Nicole Fraga, Jenae Vancura, Jessica Octavio, Luke Arnold, Yoni Lean, and Julia Keating. MI3 is based at CHOC Children’s Hospital and was founded and organized by Dr. Sharief Taraman, with whom I also worked alongside, and Dr. Anthony Chang. This summer, I served as a lead intern, which meant that the other leads and I worked on scheduling, ideating, and organizing the internship and its contents as a whole from start to finish. Everything from reading applications, conducting interviews, scheduling physician mentor sessions and guest speakers, and creating design-thinking challenges; it was all in the hands of my fellow leads and me with the advice and guidance of Dr. Taraman.
I took part in this internship myself as a regular intern in the Summer of 2019. Through MI3, I was given extraordinary physician shadowing opportunities, with high points in Ear, Nose, Throat (ENT) with Dr. Jay Bhatt, Orthopedic Surgery, and Neurosurgery. I was also given the opportunity to work-up an abstract on medical innovation to try to solve a problem that I observed in the medical field. After shadowing Sports Medicine and witnessing my first orthopedic surgery, I ultimately used the majority of the internship to ideate a medical device targeted to reduce pain and opioid dependency in immediate post-operative knee surgery patients. After submitting my abstract to my year’s leads, Dr. Taraman and Dr. Chang (along with the other 60+ interns), nine of my fellow interns and I were chosen to present our abstracts at CHOC’s Grand Rounds Presentation in August of 2019. Not only did I have incredible shadowing experiences and was able to present my abstract at Grand Rounds, but MI3 also gave me exposure to the advice and life stories of multiple physicians, healthcare professionals, medical and graduate students, and more. I learned how to innovate and solve problems creatively and freely while learning alongside a multitude of diverse and smart individuals I now call my friends.
SC: Why did you choose to work with CHOC?
IB: I feel as though CHOC chose me, not the other way around. I heard about the CHOC MI3 Internship through a friend, and when she told me of the opportunities and skills she gained from it, I was eager to apply. Not only was the description of MI3 attractive to me, but the CHOC’s mission and its dedicated physicians and employees made me confident that I wanted to be a part of the CHOC MI3 family.
SC: How were you able to continue working with CHOC after your past experiences there?
IB: After my first year an intern, me and six of my other peer interns were given the opportunity to become leads for the Summer 2020 internship. This is where the bridge between Summer 2019 and 2020 was formed; I will be forever grateful to the leads of 2019 for seeing something in me and for giving me the opportunity to lead the 2020 internship.
While the internship was in session this year, an ENT physician, Dr. Jay Bhatt, joined our Zoom meeting filled with 60+ interns and spoke to us about his work. I shadowed him in-person in Summer of 2019, and I oversaw his clinic and a few of his surgeries. It was a pleasure to shadow him, as he made me feel like everything but a shadow: he engaged with me in conversation over a wide range of topics, let me observe as closely (and as safely) in surgery as possible, and took an interest in my hobbies and passions outside of medicine. I took the opportunity to reconnect with him when he joined the Zoom call this Summer, and I will begin a patient survey research study with him very soon.
SC: How are you continuing to work with this partner into the school year?
IB: As mentioned, I will be starting research with Dr. Bhatt this school year. I have also been working with my fellow leads and Dr. Taraman to interview a few interns from this year to be leads for the MI3 Internship in Summer 2021. Once selected, I will aid the new leads in orienting them to their new positions, as well as assist them in reading applications and conducting interviews February through April for the internship in Summer 2021.
SC: Did COVID-19 impact or change your work at all?
IB: COVID-19 forced the leads, Dr. Taraman and I, to switch the internship to a fully online, remote format. Immediately, questions bounced into our heads like “How can we facilitate the formation of connections between the interns?” or “How can we make the internship as equally engaging and beneficial as it was when it was in-person?” We had to use the skills we had learned and the experience we had gained from the internship in 2019 in order to answer these and the many other questions that filled our minds. In the end, I believe we did a great job of giving the interns a quality Zoom experience, as strong bonds were formed through assigned small groups, and skills were taught through a variety of speakers, challenges, and workshops. Not only this, but the 60+ interns within the internship each approached it with an open mind, thus allowing them to gain more than they may have lost.
SC: How did Schmid and the biology program prepare you for this research opportunity?
IB: Schmid and the biology program continues to give me access to a community of science-oriented students from whom I gain exposure to and awareness of a multitude of opportunities, like MI3. The program showcased the importance of experience within one’s field and illuminated the endless amount of opportunities that exist in order to help students to find their niche and what they love to practice.
SC: How does this work relate to your field of study/career goals?
IB: This internship had me involved in a healthcare setting and helped me to find the specific practices in which I am/am not interested. It taught me the skills necessary to become a physician and those essential to working in healthcare, in general.
SC: What was your biggest takeaway from this experience?
IB: My greatest takeaway from this internship was the opportunity I had for self-growth. Throughout my two years with MI3, I was given light into what I am capable of through the opportunities and mentors to which I was exposed. I was given the resources needed to help me pursue my goals and taught the skills required to help me reach those goals. I served as a leader to my peers and those who had an ample amount of experience. Through this role, I was able to take initiative in different situations, which helped me grow and develop the skills and characteristics necessary in a leader.
SC: What advice would you give to other students looking to find internships/work in research?
IB: My biggest advice would be to make and use connections and take the initiative. Do not be afraid to ask your peers about their own internship/research experience, as you may be interested in something in which they are involved, or an idea may spark in your brain for something you may want to pursue in the future. Do not forget that you are capable of anything and that even if something is out of your comfort zone or seems impossible, there is no harm in going for it, because you never know what could be the outcome.
Interested in the MI3 program? Check out CHOC’s innovative program here! Chapman’s Center for Undergraduate Excellence is available to support students in their internship and research experience searches. Check out their website to see updated lists of student opportunities.