Health Science Studies Students Complete Prestigious Summer Internships

May 22, 2023
Richie Akatue (left) and Brianna Rodriguez (third from far right) at their summer internships

Richie Akatue (left)  and Brianna Rodriguez (second from right), are gaining valuable experience in their respective health fields through internships.

In the Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation, the internship experience junior and senior year is designed to provide students with the opportunity to shadow and participate in clinical and practical settings in their future professions. Two Health Science Studies students, Richie Akatue and Brianna Rodriguez, share discuss their internship experiences here.

Richie Akatue

Atrial Fibrillation Health Literacy and Technology Trial with University of Pittsburgh Biomedical Research Program

Richie Akatue and his research advisor
Richie Akatue with his research advisor

Richmond “Richie” Akatue, a rising senior from Nashville, Tennessee, made the decision to come to Baylor after hearing about its opportunities for Pre-Med students. The Health Science Studies major in the Department of Health, Human Performance, and Recreation specifically appealed to him because it allowed him to learn how different health fields such as Physical and Occupational Therapy interact with medicine.

This past summer, Richie travelled to the University of Pittsburgh for a diversity-focused internship for students interested in medical school or biomedical research. The program included guided research experiences and talks on the need for diversity in the medical field. “They’re focusing this program for people of color who desire to have a future in the medical field or get their PhD and research,” Richie says, “They’re trying to expose us to what it is to be in medical school and to be a doctor.”

During the internship, Richie joined a work-study lab to study atrial fibrillation, an irregular heartbeat which can lead to inefficient blood flow. He worked with an advisor investigating his research topic: “Association of Distance from Health Care with Patient-Reported Outcomes in Atrial Fibrillation.” The research focused on patients in the New York, Pennsylvania, and Ohio areas. Of his advisor, Richie says, “He helped me a lot with understanding my research topic, what they’re doing, how they’re doing it, what I should look out for, and what I should read.”

By the end of the summer, Richie had created a poster presentation on his research topic and agreed to write a manuscript as well. That manuscript is now recently finished, and Richie plans to publish it soon.

The Health Science Studies internship offered Richie an opportunity to return to Pittsburgh this summer and “build a better connection with them and their medical school.” He will be working in the same lab, either on a different research topic or the same topic in further depth.

When he graduates, Richie will be applying to medical school. Orthopedics has always been an interest for him, but after the internship, he is also interested in pursuing cardiology. “The undergraduate research diversity program definitely exposed me to the medical field more and to the research aspect of it,” he says, “I know there’s also a lot of research that can be done in medical school, so I think that was a great opportunity to get into more biomedical research.”

Brianna Rodriguez

Pre-Physician Assistant
OASIS – Ochsner Academics Summer Internship for Students

Brianna Rodriguez
Brianna Rodriguez

Brianna Rodriguez, another rising senior, will complete her internship this summer in her hometown of New Orleans, Louisiana. Brianna fell in love with Baylor after a campus visit, saying “What intrigued me the most was the faith aspect, but also the prestige in the health science community.”

Attending Baylor seemed impossible at first for financial reasons, but Brianna says, “I still applied out of faith because I felt a lot of peace when I came here.” She discussed it with her parents and determined that she needed $5,000. On the day of Baylor’s deposit deadline, she says, “As I was talking to them about it, I received an email that I had gotten a $5,000 scholarship.”

As a student at Baylor, she discovered the Health Science Studies major and switched into it because of its community and variety of course options. “It doesn’t just focus on biology and the sciences. It’s more holistic,” she says, citing classes like Medical Ethics as unique features of the major.

Brianna decided on the Pre-Physician Assistant (PA) track her sophomore year after going on a mission trip to the Rio Grande Valley with Bears Medical Student Association (BMSA). She shadowed at a small nonprofit clinic and noticed the close interactions between PAs and patients. “I really liked their method of serving and being immersed in the patient’s life.”

When it came time for her internship, Brianna researched opportunities in the New Orleans area and found the OASIS Internship at her home hospital, the Oschner Medical Center. OASIS is a selective two-week program involving clinical and academic experiences such as “shadowing, tours of the departments, lectures, and panel discussions...”

The internship also focuses on helping minority students. Brianna says that as a first-generation college student, “Having those connections is hard, so I think it’s going to be a good experience to not only learn a lot but also make connections in our work.”

Additionally, the internship’s location in New Orleans aligns perfectly with Brianna’s career goals. Her senior year of high school, she founded Project Reunidos, an initiative dedicated to supporting immigrant families, and since then, she has been passionate about providing health care to the immigrant community in New Orleans. “My dream has always been to serve my community, so it’s going to be really important building these connections and networking back home as well as just getting to know the community that we’re serving.”