Internships in health careers proved informative


At its best, an internship is an exploration into potential career choices.

Matthew Dial

Matthew Dial

It was that and more for seven UNC Pembroke students participating in the Clinical Health Summer Program with the North Carolina Health Careers Access Program (HCAP).

Matthew Dial, who wants to be a physician, found role models. The sophomore biology and chemistry major interned at Pembroke Pediatrics.

“Being the oldest in a large family, I was always the role model,” Dial said. “After following the doctors, I liked the way they worked with patients, talked to people and helped them. I want to be like them.”

Before the internship, Dial believed surgery was the place for him, “now, I want to go with primary care.”

The interns also did research projects as part of the summer program. Alisha Johnson’s project on anemia was stimulated by a patient she met at the Julian T. Pierce Medical Center.

Alisha Johnson

Alisha Johnson

“What turned me on to this project was that we had a patient who ate seven boxes of corn starch,” Johnson said. “They told me she had PICA, which is caused by a mineral or vitamin deficiency and people with it ate clay, ice, glue, even hair.”

Anemia is often caused by an iron deficiency and results in similar cravings.

Bryan Howington, a sophomore, did his research project on obesity, and did a little thinking about a personal fitness program.

“Exercise is a good thing, and not just to make you look better,” Howington said. “My blood pressure went down.”

Bryan Howington
Bryan Howington

Howington interned with Robeson Family Practice in Red Springs, N.C.

After a research project on diabetes, Dial also started a fitness program.

“With a family history of diabetes and growing up in Robeson County and being Native American – Native Americans are more than twice as likely to have diabetes – this was important to me,” Dial said. “I learned that the predisposition for type two diabetes shows up in the 15-21 age group, and is most often caused by being overweight.”

“I love to eat, but I am going to try to get more exercise,” he said.

Catherine Hogan

Catherine Hogan

The HCAP intern program is a valuable career development tool as Catherine Hogan, a junior biology major from Red Springs, found out.

“I really needed this internship,” she said.

Uncertain of her career goals, an internship at the Robeson County Health Department convinced Hogan that public health nursing is a good match.

“I want to educate and inform people about healthy lifestyles,” Hogan said. “I had a lot of questions, and I got the chance to ask them at the Health Department.”

Junior biology and chemistry major Erica Dellinger wants to go into radiology or anesthesiology, and her internship in the radiology department of Southeastern Regional Medical Center reinforced her choice.

Erica Dellinger

Erica Dellinger

“I saw a couple of cases that inspired me even more,” Dellinger said. “This is what I want to do.”

This is music to HCAP Director Sylvia Johnson’s ears.

“The Clinical Health Summer Program provides a wonderful opportunity for college students to look at a variety of careers in health care and related fields,” Johnson said. “The students get practical experience, exposure to real-life situations, and the opportunity to make valuable contact with health care professionals by which mentor relationships could form.”

“The program is just one example of how the N.C. HCAP is helping to increase the number of racial or ethnic minorities and individuals from economically disadvantaged backgrounds who are trained, educated and employed in the health professions,” Johnson said.

For more information about the program contact: Sylvia T. Johnson, director, NC-HCAP at UNC Pembroke at 910.521.6493 or email


Student interns: 1st Row from left: Alisha Johnson, Ann Huggins, Catherine Hogan, Bryan Howington. 2nd Row from left: William Joshua Johnson, Erica Dellinger, Matthew Dial