In the past few months, Emily Toich ’22 has spoken with a lot of residents of Lorain County in northern Ohio. Off the top of her head, Toich mentioned that she had spoken with adults, high schoolers, children, patients preparing for health screenings and a group of teenagers interested in health professions, not to mention the doctors, nurses and other medical staff she’s worked alongside this summer. “I chose this internship, because I feel like health education is a good thing to get into if you want to go into health,” says Toich. “I wanted to get a focus that will teach me how to teach other people.”
Toich had the opportunity to educate groups of people as a part of the Leadership Lorain County summer internship program, which connected a cohort of ten interns with organizations throughout the area that matched their field of study. Toich, a biology major with aspirations of a career in the health field, worked with Mercy Health Parish Nursing, an organization which seeks to “to improve the health of the community, with an emphasis on people who face economic barriers to health care.” Part of her duties included making presentations on various health topics, such as the importance of proper nutrition, drinking water and the USDA’s MyPlate food groups. When presenting to children, she could get creative with props and activities to help her younger audiences understand concepts like healthy portion sizes.
The Parish Nursing group offers health screenings in addition to educational seminars. Toich provided administrative support to a team of nurses and helped patients who were getting blood, glucose or blood pressure screenings. “That, I think, is my favorite part, because I get into the patient care aspect of it,” she says. “I help them fill out their paperwork. I’m helping people do their lab work. I’ve held a few people’s hands while they get it done.”
On Fridays, Toich met back up with the rest of the Leadership Lorain County interns for professional development sessions preparing them for the workplace. They received training on interview etiquette, got feedback on their resumes, and completed assessments to learn more about themselves. “I got to learn how I work well with others and how others could work well with me,” Toich says. When the internship program ended in early August, she and her fellow interns attended a recognition event and presented on their experiences.
Toich has found the entire experience invaluable as it has given her connections and insights into a health-focused career. This May, Toich will be graduating from Hiram College. After she has earned her bachelor’s, she intends to take a gap year and gain even more experience in a health setting before going back to school to become a physician assistant specializing in psychiatry. As part of her internship, Toich was able to shadow the staff who run a behavioral health unit within Mercy. “It really strengthened my desire to go into psychiatry,” she says. She attended morning huddles with doctors to learn about the patients in the unit, shadowed social workers who admitted new patients, and observed group therapy sessions.
Toich is motivated to work in the medical field partly due to her own health and her desire to share her story. “I have bipolar disorder, so I really like the fact that I’ll be able to take the skills that I have learned and give them to other people,” she says. As a physician assistant, Toich understands that she’ll be able to work closely with patients to address their immediate needs and collaborate on plans for moving forward by relaying her personal experience: “I can be a role model for my patients to let them know that it can get better. You can be a doctor, a physician assistant, a lawyer and still have a mental health disorder. You don’t have to think that you’re going to be stuck with this disorder the rest of your life that you can’t get through.”