Internships provide UNCP students with a look at health careers


At its best, an internship is a professional and personal journey of discovery. Participants of a summer program with local healthcare agencies confirmed that the experience is an important tool to build professional careers.

Funded by the North Carolina General Assembly, UNC Pembroke’s Health Careers Access Program (HCAP) provides internships for 10 students in a variety of settings. Five of the participants recently discussed their 6-week summer internships. Their experiences and ambitions vary, but they agreed that the internships were valuable.

“I’m already a CNA (certified nursing aid), so I got to do everything at Robeson Family Practice (in Red Springs),” said Chloe Hunt. “The experience gave me more knowledge about what a physician’s assistant does.” 

Hunt, who is from Lumberton, learned more about the local population, too. “I want to practice here in Robeson County because I’m from here and I know the people,” she said. “At my internship, I saw first-hand some of the critical health issues in our county.”

Kimberly Nguyen is changing her career plans, and an internship confirmed her decision.

“I am changing to nursing,” Nguyen said. “I am convinced now that it’s what I want to do. I worked in the Duke Cardiology Unit of Southeastern Regional Medical Center (SRMC), and I am sure now that I want to work in a hospital setting.

“It was very exciting,” she continued. “I saw open heart surgery and several heart catheterizations.”

For Nguyen, the internship revealed personal strengths. “I got to work face-to-face with patients,” she said. “I developed such a good relationship with the patients that one of them pleaded with me not to leave at the end of the internship.”

Allona Frazier, who interned at Trinity Urgent Care in Pembroke and has been accepted to UNCP’s nursing program, found a weakness that she must overcome. “I watched a minor surgery, and I nearly passed out,” she said. “It was my first time, and I fought through it. All nurses encounter this kind of situation. Next time, I’ll be okay.”

In the end, Frazier would have changed only one thing. “I wish the internship was longer than six weeks,” she said.

Heather Blue witnessed the power of physical therapy in action at the rehabilitation unit of SRMC’s Lifestyle and Fitness Center, and she liked what she saw.

“We had stroke patients come to us in wheelchairs and walk out after several weeks,” she said. “We worked with a toddler who had a stroke in the womb. One of our patients died.

“I got to see what physical, occupational and speech therapists do, and I am convinced that physical therapy is what I want to do,” Blue said.

Alexander Sarant wants to be a doctor, and his internship at Southeastern Orthopedics tested his mettle.

“I was very proactive and got to do a lot,” he said. “I did casting, splinting, attended surgery and even learned how to scrub in. After two days, I hopped into the fray, and it was a rewarding experience.”

“It was very hands on when it came to patient interactions,” Sarant said. “I interviewed patients about their symptoms and medical history.”

Sylvia Johnson directs HCAP, which is in its 40th year at UNCP. “The goal of the clinical summer internships is to make students ready for careers in health care,” she said.

“An internship is a time for outstanding students to find themselves and their place in health care,” said Johnson. “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.”

Johnson thanked the participating agencies and professionals, some of whom participated in HCAP internships themselves. “I’d like to thank the people and organizations that sponsored our interns,” Johnson said. “They take time out of their day to help future health care professionals.

“HCAP’s mission is to grow health care professionals locally,” she continued. “UNCP and HCAP have been very successful in this endeavor with the help of the local professional community.”

UNCP’s 10 Clinical Interns from Summer 2011:           

  •  Heather Blue – From Pembroke, she is a senior biology major who interned at SRMC’s Lifestyle and Fitness Center in Lumberton.
  • Brittany Chavis – From Lumberton, she is a senior exercise and sports science major who interned at Robeson Health Care Corporation (RHCC).
  • Allona Frazier – From Monroe, N.C., she is a junior nursing major; she interned at First Health’s Trinity Urgent Care in Pembroke.
  • Anthony Hailey – From Fayetteville, he is a junior nursing major who interned at Julian T. Pierce, RHCC.
  • Chloe Hunt – From Lumberton, she is a senior biology major who interned at Robeson Family Practice in Red Springs.
  • Julianna McCollick – From Philadelphia, Pa., she is a senior biology major who interned at Pembroke Pediatrics.
  • Larhonda Mickens – From Landover, Md., she is a sophomore nursing major; she interned at South Robeson Medical, RHCC.
  • Kimberly Nyugen – From Statesville, N.C., she is a junior mass communication major and interned at Southeastern Regional Heart Center in Lumberton.
  • Brandon Payton – From Apex, N.C., he is a sophomore biology major with a biomedical emphasis; he interned at Lumberton Health Center, RHCC.
  • Alexander Sarant – From Parkton, he is a double major in biology with a biomedical emphasis and chemistry with a pre-health professions emphasis; heinterned at Southeastern Orthopedics in Lumberton

For more information about the N.C. Health Careers Access Program at UNCP, please call 910.521.6673 or email