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Summer internships nurture careers in healthcare

July 23, 2014

The 10 undergraduates who participated in UNC Pembroke’s Clinical Summer Internship Program are the healthcare professionals of the future.

Students log 240 hours in local health care clinics and in their chosen field. At the conclusion of the six-week program, which is sponsored by the Health Careers Access Program (NC-HCAP), they report on their internship and present a research paper.

HCAP Director Sylvia Johnson, who has helped nurture dozens of future doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physical therapists, nurses and more, organizes the internship program. Johnson, who is retiring this year, provides advisement, internships and assistance with professional school applications.

“The goal of the clinical health summer internships is to help make students ready for careers in health care,” Johnson said. “This can’t be accomplished without hosts who volunteer their time and talents. Over the years, we’ve had a really great group of health professionals as hosts.

“An internship is a time for outstanding students to find themselves and their place in health care,” she continued. “The students get practical experience, exposure to real-life situations and an opportunity to make valuable contacts with health care professionals by which mentor relationships could form.”

Matthew Bryant

Matthew Bryant

In presentations, the students discussed what they learned on the job. Matthew Bryant, who interned at the Maxton Medical Center, said it was  a   valuable experience.

“I asked a million questions; it was eye opening.” Bryant said. “One of the most important things I learned is that no two patients are the same, even if they have the same diagnosis.”

Bryant, who presented research on diabetes, offered this takeaway from his internship: “It hit a nerve with me to see a parent bring in a 10-year old who weighs over 300 pounds,” he said. “My research points to how important education is.”

It is not always the case, but Bryant and his fellow interns said their experience “solidified” their career plans. The most common complaint is that they wished the internships lasted longer.

The internships gave the students a top to bottom look at the workings of a health clinic, according to Marcus Dial, who interned at Pembroke Pediatrics. “I wanted to get the whole picture of what it’s like to run a practice, so I started in the front office and worked my way back,” he said. “I got to shadow Dr. (Joseph) Bell for two weeks in the end.”

Andrew Brayboy, who interned with a physical therapist at Southeastern Lifestyle Fitness Center, was exposed to new treatments. He watched a procedure called dry needling, in which needles are inserted directly into the pain source. Brayboy also got hands-on experience in the front office too.

“I was able to step out and do more with patients as time went by,” Brayboy said. “When the administrative assistant was out sick, we handled the front office too. I got good at multi-tasking.”

India Smith, who wants to be a neonatologist, interned with the Lumberton Children’s Clinic. She worked in the front office, in finance, in the lab and with babies.

India Smith

India Smith

“I learned the value of note taking when it comes to billing,” she said. “I like working with the nurse practitioner the best because she saw a lot of babies.

“Working with many different health professionals as well as patients, I was able to understand the true meaning of being a health care provider,” Smith said. “As an intern, I was able to get on the inside looking out.”

Smith and fellow intern, Kairon Locklear-Brewington, are in the Early Assurance Program, which pays their college expenses and guarantees them a spot in East Carolina’s Brody School of Medicine.


From left: Paige Locklear, Matthew Bryant, Thristan Clark, Brittany Threatt, Sylvia Johnson (HCAP director), India Smith, Marcus Dial, Kairon Brewington, Andrew Brayboy, Kayla Locklear and William Robinson

The 2014 interns were:

  • Andrew Brayboy – senior, exercise physiology major from Raeford, N.C.; interned with Southeastern Health Rehabilitation Center
  • Kairon Brewington – sophomore, biology major from Pembroke; Julian Pierce Medical Center (Robeson Health Care Corp.)
  • Matthew Bryant – junior, biology major from Denton, N.C.; Maxton Medical Center (Robeson Health Care)
  • Thristan Clark – sophomore, biology major from the Prospect community; Robeson Family Practice
  • Marcus Dial – senior, biology major from Red Springs, N.C.; Pembroke Pediatrics
  • Betty Kayla Locklear – senior, biology major from Pembroke; Collins and Lowery Dentistry
  • Paige Locklear – senior, biology major from Maxton, N.C.; Southeastern Health Medical Center/Pembroke Urgent Care, and Southeastern Health Medical Center Pharmacy
  • William Robinson – senior, chemistry major from Charlotte, N.C.; Southeastern Health Medical Center Pharmacy
  • India Kaylyn Smith – sophomore, biology major from Lumberton, N.C.; Lumberton Children’s Clinic
  • Brittany Threatt – Junior, nursing major from Charlotte, N.C.; Trinity Urgent Care and Family Practice

For more information about the N.C. Health Careers Access Program at UNCP, please call (910) 521.6673 or email