Charlie Kelly ’11 - After returning from a semester abroad in Shanghai, China, I felt overwhelmed and nervous about the likelihood of finding a summer internship. Let’s be honest, car wash attendant and sailing instructor were great summer jobs back in high school. However, with graduation approaching, I sought to obtain real professional work experience.
If you find yourself in a similar situation, the Cancer Treatment Centers of America is a great place to look. The CTCA, founded by Richard J Stephenson ’62, employs around 32 Wabash graduates at any given time. Even more importantly, the company treats each and every employee as an integral part of its growth and success; for this reason, at no time will you be referred to as an employee, but rather a stakeholder.
I understood this company was different from the get-go. A five-minute internet search is really all you need to understand how much opportunity exists in a company that operates like the CTCA. Knowing this back in January, I used Career Services’ Mentors webpage to reach out to the Chief Officer of Operations at the Eastern Regional hospital in Philadelphia. Vice presidents, especially those running hospitals, do not talk to college students. The job is extremely stressful, and that stress is amplified when the hospital treats cancer. Looking back on it, I’m convinced that only a Wabash Alum would’ve answered my call. That Alumnus happened to be Kane Dawson ’94.
The very first time I called, Kane and I talked for at least a half hour. He offered advice and explained how he leveraged his liberal arts education and English major towards a career in Healthcare administration. In addition, he passed my resume onto Human Resources and set up an interview. Don’t mistakenly think that being from Wabash will get you a job, my subsequent interview was nearly three hours. All the same, it never hurts to reach out.
My healthcare management internship started on June 7. While I was excited to start working, I remained skeptical of all the great things I read on the internet. As I awkwardly sat in the orientation room filled with new hires in everything from nursing to culinary and environmental services, I was shocked to see the CEO and President of the Eastern Regional Medical Center walk through the door. John McNeil introduced himself then sought to meet each and every one of us personally. Upon hearing of my Wabash affiliation he announced to the room, “A Wabash degree at the CTCA means more than a degree from Harvard… but…understand we also hold you to a higher standard.”
I was blown away, most of the time if someone is not from Wabash, they cannot truly appreciate the quality of a Wabash education. In addition, it was clear that even the CEO of hospital truly honors the CTCA’s commitment to treat each and every person as a stakeholder in the company rather than an employee. Where else would you find a CEO seeking to personally meet a summer intern, security guard, and a house keeper?
After completing orientation, I saw how busy, yet rewarding working in a hospital can be. Our hospital was about to host its annual two-day Celebrate Life extravaganza commemorating the five year anniversaries of cancer survivors who treated at the Eastern Regional Medical Center in Philadelphia. The festival went off without a hitch. During the ceremony I was assigned to assist guest services. That’s right, guest services, not patient relations like a typical hospital. It’s called guest services because the patients are literally given the attention you’d receive at a five star hotel. While aiding guest services for the ceremony I started a conversation with a lady who told me she was supposed to die last Christmas. I could sense an arrogant tone in her voice as she scuffed at her death sentence while talking about her battle with breast cancer. She was arrogant because while being diagnosed with stage IV cancer at her local hospital, she was literally told there was nothing else they could do and she should go home and get her affairs in order. Just one year later, after the CTCA successfully treated her cancer into remission, she explained how the optimism and integrative treatment at the CTCA saved her life.
Stories like these are the most rewarding part of my internship. While in an average day I’ll create or administer surveys, or construct excel spread sheets, there is still the possibility that I’ll strike up a conversation with someone who’s life was bettered or saved by the company I’m a part of.
In photos: Kelly in front of the Cancer Treatment Center. Lower left, Kelly with "Mr. Brown," a cancer survivor and volunteer.