An unexpected connection began between a Jewish care facility in Miami and the BYU Gerontology department when Dr. Marc Agronin, VP of Behavioral Health and Clinical Research at Miami Jewish Health (MJH), came to BYU to speak at the annual Russell B. Clark Gerontology Conference. The connection between the department and MJH led to a new internship program, which helps students earn a minor in gerontology, the study of old age and the process of aging. The BYU Gerontology department offers students the opportunity to earn the minor, which complements other majors. Four students minoring in gerontology recently returned from Miami, where they experienced a professionally and personally enriching internship at MJH.
The four interns had the opportunity to observe staff members at MJH and provide hands-on care. They lived on campus and alternated weekly between the various branches of the facility. One of the interns, Meagan Proffit, an exercise science major, reported that living on site was great, because she enjoyed “passing other guests and residents each day during meals, activities, and their ‘porchtalks’ near the front of the building which helped us build special connections with them and lifted our spirits as well as theirs each day.” Another intern, Grant Flindt, a biochemistry major, enjoyed learning about the different aspects of MJH, including entertaining and interacting with patients during the P.A.C.E. (new form of geriatric healthcare) week. Flindt found the P.A.C.E. week to be “one of my favorite weeks because the doctor we shadowed, was so willing to take us on and answer any question that popped in our heads. We got a good view at what a gerontologist/internist will deal with in the hospital, which was encouraging!”
Among the highlights of the internship for the students was their interactions with the staff and patients. Seth Smith, a neuroscience major, found that staff members “genuinely care about the geriatric population of Miami Jewish and about us…Dr. Agronin does everything he can to make our experience there specifically meaningful to each participant… he is dedicated to helping the interns.” Profitt added that they made many close connections with people, and that “many of them were asking if we could stay for longer, the whole summer if not a whole year. I felt deeply touched by the number of people who had that kind of response.”
Because of the connections they made and the practical knowledge of gerontology that they gained, the interns felt that their time at MJH impacted their future beyond what they had imagined. Mandy Gilmour, an exercise and wellness major, gratefully reported: “I can’t explain how much this [internship] was a blessing in my life to learn and grow from. I have gained knowledge that will help direct my future as well as continual service for the rest of my life. I have also made relationships with individuals that I will be able to take with me and carry through the rest of my life.”