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UNCP students complete healthcare internships


For 10 UNC Pembroke students, their six-week Clinical Health Summer Internships were informative, inspirational and transformative. They presented final reports and research projects on June 18.

The internships with area medical clinics are sponsored by the North Carolina Health Careers Access Program (HCAP), a state-funded program. The program at UNCP has worked with dozens of future health care professionals over its 42 years.

“HCAP’s mission is to grow health care professionals locally,” said HCAP Director Sylvia Johnson. “UNCP and NC-HCAP have been very successful in this endeavor with the help of the local professional community, who take the time to offer internships and mentoring.”

This group of interns was diverse and included three non-traditional students (age 25 and up) and three students participating in the Early Assurance Program, a four-year scholarship program that guarantees acceptance into East Carolina University’s Brody School of Medicine.

For Nadia Jones, an internship with Robeson Healthcare Corporation’s Julian T. Pierce Clinic affirmed her goal to be a physician’s assistant. “I did not know I would be as good as I was with children and adult patients,” she said. “I loved working with the staff, and I know this career is what I want to do.”

Kathyrn Hunt, who was born in Hawaii and is married to a member of the Lumbee Tribe, wants to be a pharmacist. She requested an internship on an Indian reservation because, she said: “I want to work with underserved communities, preferably in an American Indian community.”

Hunt worked on the Catawba Indian reservation in Rock Hill, S.C. Asked if free health care provided to a federally-recognized tribe resulted in better outcomes, Hunt was cautious. “You can prescribe, but if the patients aren’t compliant, it does not help,” she said. “Patients have to participate in their care.”

Like the other interns, Hunt participated in the operations of a community health clinic from top to bottom. She also shadowed the tribe’s nutritionist and worked in the community garden.

Tyler Dial learned to read an electrocardiogram. Nadia Jones, who spotted a problematic Band-Aid on the foot of a diabetic patient, was proud that her “first diagnosis” was a good one.

Matthew Godwin learned that looking into children’s ears with an otoscope can be an adventure. “The internship experience put fuel on my already burning passion to be a doctor,” he said. “The best part was having the opportunity to communicate with patients and getting hands-on experience.”

The interns had eye-opening experiences too. Tyler Dial witnessed prescription drug abuse. Brandon Blackwell, Candace Locklear and Godwin all did research reports on diabetes or one of its root causes, obesity.

“I would say 95 percent of the patients I saw have diabetes,” Blackwell said. “Most have type 2, which can be controlled through diet and exercise.”

In a discussion of solutions to the epidemic of diabetes, Molly Woodard observed: “The doctors don’t have enough time for health education. I think student volunteers could help with something like patient education.”

Jones summed up the purpose of the internship program. “This is how to learn; by getting out into the field,” she said.

The HCAP director said this year’s group of 10 interns was outstanding. “The goal of the clinical health summer internships is to help students get ready for careers in health care,” Johnson said. “This can’t be accomplished without hosts who volunteer their time and talents. We had a really great group of health professionals as hosts this year.

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

Here is a list of the internships:

  • Brandon Blackwell – a junior biology major from Ash, N.C., he interned with Robeson Healthcare Corporation’s Lumberton Health Center
  • Olivia Bullard – a senior, biology major from Pembroke, she interned with Robeson Family Practice Association in Red Springs.
  • Tyler Dial – a senior, a senior biology major from Maxton, he interned with Trinity Urgent Care and Family Practice in Pembroke
  • Matthew Godwin – a sophomore biology major from Pembroke, he interned with Pembroke Pediatrics
  • Kathryn Hunt – a junior, chemistry major from Pembroke, she interned with the Catawba Tribe’s Catawba Service Unit-IHS in Rockhill, S.C.
  • Nadia Jones – a senior biology major from Pembroke, she interned with Robeson Healthcare’s Julian T. Pierce Clinic in Pembroke
  • Candace Brooke Locklear – a sophomore, biology and chemistry major from Pembroke, she interned with Southeastern Regional Medical Center’s North Lumberton and Scotland Memorial Hospital clinics
  • Mariam Qambar – a junior biology major from Hillsborough, she interned with Robeson Healthcare’s South Robeson Clinic
  • Ashleigh Thorup – a junior chemistry major from Raeford, she interned with  Southeastern Regional Medical Center in Lumberton
  • Molly Woodard – a junior, chemistry major from Pembroke, she interned with Robeson Pediatrics in Lumberton

For more information about NC-HCAP at UNCP, call 910.521.6673 or email