Kaiser Permanente Regional Office. Photo by Alejandra Leynez Chantres.

Kaiser: An internship story

An interview with three Fellows in different departments at Kaiser Permanente, one of the largest insurance providers and healthcare companies in North America.

What is your name, major, department at Kaiser, and internship role?

ALC: My name is Alejandra Leynez Chantres, and I am a senior studying Public Health at UC Berkeley. This summer, I am a KP Launch intern with the Strategic Workforce Management team, which sits in the Human Resources department, at Kaiser Permanente Regional Offices.

MJ: My name is Marycon Jiro. I’m majoring in Integrative Biology and minoring in Global Poverty and Practice. This summer, I work in Hospital Administration and Surgery department as a KP LAUNCH Program Coordinator at Kaiser Permanente San Leandro Medical Center. As a Program Coordinator, I mentor and manage 14 interns spread out in 20 departments in the medical center and develop an 8 week curriculum centered on professional development, healthcare career exposure, leadership, team building, public speaking and inclusion.

YG: My name is Yanna Gong, I’m a rising senior studying Political Economy. I’m an intern at the Technology Innovation department at Kaiser which focuses on four primary components: Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality, 3-D Printing, and Voice Recognition.

Marycon, in blue, with her interns.

What were your first impressions of Kaiser?

ALC: When I first started my internship at Kaiser Permanente, I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that Kaiser Permanente was a large corporate entity, but I also knew that they were not like any traditional “Corporate America” company. I thought that I had a good grasp of the organization going in because I had studied their business model many times before. Yet, Kaiser Permanente has shown me something new in the world of health care time and time again ever since the first day.

MJ: I first started working at Kaiser four years ago, before I attended Cal. Back as a high school intern, my knowledge of Kaiser Permanente was limited to its reputation as a well-respected hospital. I have since learned more about Kaiser Permanente as company, and learning about its commitment to giving back, innovation, prevention, and a diverse workforce to obtain quality outcomes for its members has increasingly excited and motivated me each day at work.

YG: Coming into Kaiser, one of my first impressions was the fact they have an incredibly unique business model that allows for immense innovation and pioneering in the field of healthcare. The Garfield Innovation Center was created for the purpose of bringing in new ideas for the members, clinicians, and employees. These new ideas are then able to be implemented in their actual hospitals because their business structure allows them to do so. As an individual in the team you have the capability to create impact from the beginning to the end by being able to follow-through on the entire process — an idea that really captivated me from the start.

What is your favorite aspect of your internship? And what is the most challenging part?

You have the freedom to pave your way for how you want to sculpt your time working by choosing to take initiative (or not).

ALC: These past six weeks, I have done everything from learning about mental health through the Education Theater at KP to sitting in on a Health Committee meeting in the State Capitol. With the fun, there have also been some challenges. Navigating such a large organization was difficult at first. As an intern, it was also a bit intimidating to ask directors, program managers, and other KP leaders for their time when I needed to interview them for my projects. Building that courage and professionalism took a few tries to master, however, I know I developed a lot through the experience. Now, I must continue growing my confidence in order to present my recommendations for process improvement to various leaders in the organization. Although the thought of presenting to leadership is making me nervous, I am confident in my solution because I co-created (a concept I learned and practiced in the fellowship) the solution with many of the stakeholders.

MJ: My favorite aspect about the internship was the program’s commitment to the overall growth of their interns. In many ways, the reason why I loved this internship was due to its parallels with the Fellowship; there is strong mentorship present in the program and many outside opportunities for personal development. In addition to my work, I attended PWBC Young Women’s Professional Summit, watched an international poetry slam competition, and participated in community service events. I also attended bi-weekly professional development days in which I learned about mental health and conflict resolution, developed extensive networks, and listened/connected with some of Kaiser’s leaders such as the CEO, Senior Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion, and San Leandro Medical Center’s Physician in Chief. These experiences empowered me in my work as a Program Coordinator, and I was able to translate the skills and tools I’ve gained into my own role with my interns.

YG: With any internships it’s typically a “it is what you make of it” experience, and that can at times be challenging, but it’s something I’ve really been enjoying and I’m quite grateful for. You have the freedom to pave your way for how you want to sculpt your time working by choosing to take initiative (or not). Because of that, I’ve had an incredible time not only growing more as an individual, but also learning about certain fields I’ve had interest in but never had the time to explore. One of the components of this internship is having the opportunity to do a personal project; we’re allowed to pick a topic pertaining to healthcare that we want to explore and at the end of the internship we’ll be presenting our findings to the department. My focus is looking at the potential implications blockchain has on healthcare. In the beginning of the internship, I had almost no understanding of what blockchain even was — I couldn’t have even given you a definition. But as time progressed, I’ve been able to take a deep dive into a topic that has been absolutely fascinating. I’m thankful for Kaiser for giving me the opportunity of challenging myself.

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How does your experience fit into the grander picture of your life? Or how has it changed your career journey?

If you have the determination and the desire to learn, the world truly is your oyster.

ALC: I have met plenty of people working in the legislative and policy side of healthcare some of whom have become my mentors! They exposed me to their careers in health policy and speaking to them helped me see myself working in policy in the near future. In the time being, I hope to continue exploring the opportunities to leverage technology to advance policy issues through the fellowship next year.

MJ: I was exposed to different healthcare careers during my time in Kaiser, and through this exposure I solidified my path towards medicine as well as expanded my views on the different ways I can use my medical degree. My mentor this summer is the Senior Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion of Kaiser Permanente, and learning about how he has married his position with his MD has encouraged me to explore my options as a physician.

YG: One of the biggest takeaways so far from my experience is the fact that there is so much in the world I have yet to learn and nothing is impossible to learn. I phrase it like so, because before my time at Kaiser I imagined my options for after graduation as slightly limited in the sense that I felt like there were only a few fields I could enter because there were only a few fields I understood. However, since time has passed I realize that if you have the determination and the desire to learn, the world truly is your oyster. Because of that my experience at KP has thrown my off my original plan of what I thought I was going to do — but I’m so thankful for the experience, and I look forward to the school year in hopes of being able to better discover what I hope to achieve in the future.

How might your internship impact your work with the Fellowship? What skills and/or experience have you gained that you will bring back to the Fellowship?

Alejandra’s office and wall of sticky notes.

ALC: I had to use a lot of my design thinking skills, which I slightly adapted to fit my context, in order to engage the users (interviews), brainstorm all sorts of ideas (with sticky notes everywhere in my office), and run through different iterations of the process I was developing.

MJ: The KP LAUNCH internship has strengthened my communication, research, teamwork, public speaking and networking skills, all which will be useful during my last year with the Fellowship. I was most grateful, however, for the focus on mental health. Every other week, we had four hour workshops dedicated to stress education, mindfulness, and healthy relationships. These workshops gave me the tools to handle stressful situations in a healthier way and change my perception of the events in my life. I know that these tools will be helpful overall during my last year at Cal.

YG: Similar to what I mentioned previously, I hope that this year with the Fellowship I’ll be able to bring in even more tools and skills to the table that I previously couldn’t. I hope that with the work I’ve been doing this summer, in addition to keeping an open mind, I can create something that a year ago I couldn’t even imagine.

Do you feel like the Fellowship helped prepare you for this internship and if so, how?

Marycon, far left, with Kaiser Permanente CEO, Bernard Tyson.

ALC: The most helpful fellowship experience was probably the fact that at Kaiser Permanente and in the fellowship, I only had a few weeks to work on such a large, ambiguous projects. My projects are not quite done as I have some time left in my internship, but it’s safe to say that the fellowship did teach me new skills that I have transferred to my career. I hope that I can bring back the project management and leadership skills, mental and emotional awareness knowledge, and new networking abilities I have gained this summer back to the fellowship this coming year.

MJ: The Fung Fellowship has definitely prepared me for this internship; networking and pitching my projects to my supervisors, for example, felt like second nature because these were all skills that I had gained during my time with the Fellowship. I also gained a strong sense of self-awareness during the Fung Fellowship, just because the Fellowship was such a new environment for me, that once I began my internship, I knew what I needed to do for myself, and I was not afraid to take opportunities.

YG: Since the department and projects I’m focusing on examine VR and Machine Learning, I think that the Fellowship prepared me quite well for the work. There was still a lot that I had to learn, but the information wasn’t completely foreign to me at the very least. Because both the Fellowship and the department focus on such innovative technologies, there was an immense amount of overlap not just in the topics, but also in the process in which the projects are conducted.

Where do you want to go from here?

Left Alejandra (center) with coworkers. Right Marycon (right) and Alejandra (center) at a poetry slam.

ALC: Overall, my KP Launch experience has changed my life in some ways, yet reaffirmed it in others. Through my time at Kaiser Permanente, I have expanded my professional network, while also making lifelong friends who I can confidently say will change the future and face of healthcare, corporate America, and more. In order to get there, one of my goals is to work in Sacramento or in Washington D.C. within the next five years. I will be applying to fellowships or other opportunities in government relations this upcoming year to make that happen.

MJ: From here, I will continue towards my path to medicine and apply for medical school in 2018. The application process will undoubtedly be difficult, but one school that I am hopeful to attend is the new KP School of Medicine. The collaborative, innovative and data driven approach this school of medicine is creating is the same environment that I love about the Fung Fellowship and my internship, so continuing my education in a similar space will be ideal. After medical school I hope to continue helping with diversity and inclusion efforts in health care.

YG: To be honest, I’m not exactly sure where I’ll go from here. But I hope that with an open mind and a revitalized curiosity, I’ll be able to continue exploring and learning down whichever path I decide to take.

Yanna with Adrienne Greer, Fung Fellowship Project Specialist, KP headquarters in Oakland

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