Donovan Inniss '18

Donovon InnissWhat were some of the responsibilities of your internship? What did it entail?

This summer I was a part of the Michigan Health Sciences Undergraduate Research Academy (MHSURA) at the University of Michigan Healthcare System. The program had a threefold purpose: conduct research, volunteer, and shadow physicians. The program is committed to community engagement (learning about health disparities) and helping its participants to develop professionally. My primary responsibility was to conduct clinical research within the Hepatology clinic under my Principal Investigator (P.I.). The project I worked on was centered around tracking the feasibility of a lifestyle intervention program for patients with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. With this, I interviewed and met with patients on a daily basis – getting one-on-one patient interaction while watching physicians in action. I assessed, gathered, and analyzed physical and verbal patient feedback to produce preliminary research results on the lifestyle intervention program, which I was able to present at the end of the summer. Alongside this daily research were my volunteering and mentoring responsibilities. On weekends, and on some weekdays, my MHSURA cohort and I would volunteer at food drives, learn about the health disparities in Detroit, and mentor teenagers entering college. My final responsibility was to shadow physicians and attend health inequality seminars and research presentations just about every other day. I was able to shadow cardiologists, hepatologists, neurologists, and an orthopedic surgeon. These shadowing opportunities were coupled with professional development and networking seminars that helped me to advance into the medical field as a future physician.

What were some challenges/experiences that you faced? How did you overcome those challenges?

The biggest challenge I faced was being able to balance and take advantage of all the opportunities that The University of Michigan had to offer. There were often other events and experiences outside of my program that contributed to my summer experience and self-development. These events sometimes conflicted, and they became difficult to prioritize, especially with the commitments of my MHSURA agenda. To ensure that my time was well managed, I took advantage of my planner – setting my research as the priority, and filling in everything after that; because I enjoyed my research project so much, I did not find it difficult to keep my tasks under control. There was a wealth of experiences I wanted to squeeze in before the summer ended, despite already having a full plate to handle. Despite this, I was able to do more than I could have imagined during my time in Michigan.

What was your favorite memory?

Because my cohort was so small, 19 people to be exact, we became very close to each other and to our program manager. With this, we often planned many outings inside and outside of Ann Arbor. A group of us drove to Chicago for a weekend, went kayaking on another weekend, danced to Bachata on a weeknight, and ate foods from different cultures every Friday! I cannot pick one single memory that outranks another because they were all filled with diversity, culture, and friendship with likeminded individuals. The summer in its entirety went far beyond anything I could have imagined it to be, and I truly wish I could relive those moments with the people I am certain will remain my lifelong friends. 

Advice for students interested in applying for an internship?

First, do not be afraid to call the program managers/coordinators! They are often open to answering your questions and are very enthusiastic about having participants. My program coordinator this year, “Coach”, made sure that we exhausted the opportunities Michigan had to offer. He became our father for the summer and made it his prerogative to ensure that we developed into future leaders in medicine and learned the importance of community engagement.

Second, apply to a lot of internships! It is not guaranteed that you're going to get into the one you want — they're very competitive. If you apply for an internship, make sure it is something that you love doing; otherwise you may not enjoy the experience! Familiarize yourself with all of the program specifics to see if there are things to do in that city or with the people from your program — you wouldn't want to spend an entire summer stuck in the same position. Keep an open mind and try to have fun.

What are your plans after graduation?

I intend to take a gap year to teach English in a foreign country – South America, Japan…no idea yet! I then intend to enroll in medical school after that.

Anything else you would like to add?

Just two things:

First, I want to encourage everyone to “Pay it Forward.” Make sure that everything you do – and achieve – can be reciprocated to help someone in need. May we leave the world better than we met it.

Second, one of my favorite quotes: “Face your life, its pain, its pleasures, leave no path untaken” – Neil Gaiman.