As a shy and unsure high school sophomore beginning her BWH internship through the Student Success Jobs Program (SSJP) three years ago, Laureen Chalumeau froze when her supervisor instructed her to make her first phone call to a patient for an appointment reminder.
“I’m not ready for this,” she thought. But after a few months of working closely with her supervisor and mentor, Caroline Melia, BSN, RN, nurse care coordinator at Brigham and Women’s Advanced Primary Care Associates, South Huntington, something shifted for Chalumeau.
One day, a patient who only spoke Haitian Creole arrived for an appointment, but an interpreter was not immediately available. Chalumeau, who speaks Haitian Creole as well, jumped in to help translate without hesitation. Looking back now as one of this year’s 31 graduating SSJP seniors, she remembered how pivotal that moment felt and how surprised she was by her confidence.
“I don’t think I would ever speak Haitian Creole to anyone outside my family before that,” said Chalumeau, 18, who was recently awarded a six-year, full scholarship to attend Northeastern University, where she will study pharmacy. “SSJP just shook my world. I was so shy and introverted. Now I’m more outgoing and ready to challenge myself because SSJP supported me and put me in situations where I felt I could push myself.”
A program of the BWH Center for Community Health and Health Equity (CCHHE), SSJP matches Boston-area high school students with mentors across the Brigham for paid internships. The program is focused on fostering the next generation of talented, diverse health care workers. More than 40 departments host SSJP interns. All students who have completed the program enroll in college, and 75 percent study health or science.
Joined by their families, colleagues and SSJP underclassmen, this year’s seniors were honored during a graduation ceremony held at the Joseph B. Martin Conference Center on June 19. Attendees heard reflections from SSJP alumna Nakia Ellies, their peers in the program and keynote speaker Cheryl Clark, MD, ScD, director of Health Equity Research and Intervention at CCHHE and a hospitalist in the Division of General Medicine and Primary Care. Clark advised graduates to find strength in community, believe in themselves and “take the long view” on what they seek to achieve or change.
Donell Rankins Jr., a sophomore at the John D. O’Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury, told the audience how valuable his first year interning with inpatient Radiology has been.
“I was able to truly see that teamwork really does make the dream work,” he said. “Not only have I had the pleasure of being on the Radiology team but also the SSJP team. I have made so many friends from a plethora of different backgrounds and experiences that all come together and form a diverse SSJP community.”
Mentorship Builds Bonds
Reflecting on her three years in the program, Chalumeau said the most important component for her has been her relationship with her mentor.
“Caroline has always been there for me. No matter what issue I have, I could easily come to her,” said Chalumeau, who graduated from the Urban Science Academy in West Roxbury this month. “I look up to Caroline and aspire to be as great as she is. She’s a one-woman army in my eyes.”
At South Huntington, SSJP interns are treated like any other team member, whose ideas and contributions are all valued, Melia said. Last year, Chalumeau led an effort to create a team newsletter to better communicate information from staff meetings.
“They’re not just students. They’re people with great ideas, and they add a lot to the patient experience,” Melia said. “This program is really important not only for the students as a learning opportunity but also for the community, the hospital and the future of health care.”
Melia said it has been rewarding to see Chalumeau grow as a person and professional over the past three years and take the next steps in her studies and career.
“I’m so proud of Laureen and so happy for her. She’s such a special person,” Melia said.
SSJP is actively seeking departments and enthusiastic staff members to support its efforts. To learn more about how to become a mentor and host an SSJP intern, contact Pamela Audeh at 617-264-8740 or firstname.lastname@example.org.