An externship at UT Health Northeast is giving rising seniors Neal Rangu and Arjun PeddiReddy their first experience in job shadowing physicians and research scientists and doing research.

'Externship' exposes students to science and medicine

Thu Jun 30, 2016

TYLER — An externship at UT Health Northeast is giving Neal Rangu, a rising senior at Longview High School, his first experience in job shadowing physicians and research scientists and doing research.

Rangu is one of 18 externs in the four-week biomedical science summer externship running through July 1 at UT Health Northeast. The program is open to high school and college students.

“It’s a unique opportunity,” he said. “I’ve never found a program like this in East Texas. I wanted to be able to shadow doctors and see if I would fit in the medical field. I’m interested in becoming a doctor.”

To be considered for acceptance to the externship program, they must submit an essay about their interest in medical science, letters of recommendation and a transcript. They also pay $250.

“It introduces them to both biomedical science and to medicine. This program is not about generating more physicians or more scientists, but making sure that young people get exposure to these disciplines,” Dr. Steven Idell, senior vice president for research, said.

Exposure to those fields may encourage young people that otherwise might not have considered a career in science or a medically related field, Idell said. Not enough young people are entering science, technology, engineering and math fields, Idell said.

“The point is to provide exposure so the career pathways are identified to ensure that everybody has a chance to figure out whether it’s right for them,” Idell said, acknowledging medicine and science are not for everybody.

The externship gives externs exposure to labs funded by the National Institutes of Health and they get to see clinicians and practitioners in various disciplines doing what they do to take care of patients, he said.

The externship is an integration of medicine and science, letting externs have real-life experiences and interact with scientists and seasoned doctors.

Students see patients coming in for treatment and then they see what happens in the laboratory to address health problems, Idell said.

Just the experience of being around trained medical professionals will help in the process of planning for the future, Rangu said, adding he has learned that it takes a life-long commitment to join the medical field and “you need to make sure you love the job before you commit.”

The externship allowed Arjun Peddireddy, 17, also a rising senior at Longview High School, to see what happens inside a hospital and the research side of the medical field.

“I knew I wanted to get into medicine for awhile. It’s just a matter of what pursuit I’d like to take. Working with a pediatrician (in the externship) definitely piqued my interest,” he said.

Participating in the externship, he said, “is helping shape my views on what medicine really is and how it’s going to influence our world, not only on the patient side but in research.”

The externship, now in its third year, lets externs come to the labs to see how they function and see what researchers, technical staff, fellows and principal investigators do every day, Idell said. The externs also see clinicians, nurses, practitioners and support staff taking care of patients.

“It’s actual real-life experiences,” Idell said.

Externs observe research, for example, into lung injury or the space surrounding the lung and chest wall. There are four concentrations in the labs: pulmonary injury and repair, pulmonary infections, cancer and innate immunity. Every lab has more than one thing going on.

Externs participate in lab meetings and see how the staff debate various problems and solve them.

“What we are trying to do is provide in the limited time we have with them exposures that are enough that they can get a flavor of the work that’s on-going, essentially how the techniques are done, how they are addressed,” Idell said.

For example, externs learn the technical steps of how to grow cells.

“They are primarily observing in the labs, but they are observing just as they are in the clinical side the clinical interactions. It’s a unique experience in the area which students can’t get at any other institution,” Idell said.