Jeffrey Erkkila, 2015
Somerset Medical Center
Whitehouse Station, NJ
Summer 2012, unpaid
Sophomore Biochemistry major, Jeffrey Erkkila, spent his summer taking a less traditional internship path. Instead of applying for internships and shadowing positions with everyone else he decided to make his own. “I was looking at internships and I saw that it’s like a thousand kids going after ten shadowing positions at a hospital. It’s very, very competitive. So I thought, ‘I could probably just do that myself.’” Erkkila called a couple doctors at Somerset Medical Center in Whitehouse Station, NJ, where he had previously volunteered, and asked if he could shadow them. The first doctors he shadowed recommended him to other doctors who then recommended him to others. Erkkila ended up shadowing fourteen different doctors in fourteen different fields over the course of the summer. “They were all interesting. I saw a lot of cool stuff. I saw bicep reconstruction, knee reconstruction, things like that. But family medicine was the coolest. After seeing what I could do, they had me take patient histories, blood pressure, and working with the nurses. Eventually they had me sit with patients for twenty minutes before the doctor would come in.” Because Erkkila designed his own internship his schedule varied depending on the doctor. “For the family practice, I was there from 8 am to 5 pm for a week but for the interventional radiologist I was there for two days for four hours.”
“Just having the biochemistry background helped a lot. The doctors kind of forgot that I was a college student and not a med school student. I ended up just learning a lot about different diseases.” Erkkila had to not only be dependable but also adaptable since he worked with so many different doctors. “I did a lot of listening,” said Erkkila.
Approaching the internship experience the way Erkkila did made for excellent networking opportunities. “My name is all over that hospital,” said Erkkila. “People keep suggesting me to other doctors and they’re all so excited to teach.” Erkkila received recommendations from each doctor he worked with over the summer.
Erkkila currently has eight other doctors whom he plans to shadow this summer and winter break. When asked what he learned from his time at Somerset Medical Center he said, “I was there from when they showed up to when they left.” It was confirmation that he wanted to be a doctor. It also pushed him more into his studies he claimed. He feels that he is not just going to school but preparing for a career, which he already loves.
“If you apply to a bunch of internships and you don’t get in, that’s not the end of the world. There are a lot of ways you can be active and learn. Some people hit that wall and say ‘oh, I didn’t get in. I guess next summer.’ But it’s amazing how far you can get if you just pick up a phone and call someone.”