Intern Perspectives: Reflections on OHSU UCEDD's Summer Internship Program Shaping Disability Advocacy

January 19, 2024

Each summer, the OHSU University Center for Excellence in Developmental Disabilities (UCEDD) offers internship opportunities to high school or early college students interested in pursuing a career in health care, with an emphasis on disability.  It is a delight to watch these students progress and grow during the 8-week program which places students in different centers, clinic groups, and research labs across the Institute on Development and Disability. Every now and then, we receive updates on some of their ongoing academic and professional adventures.

One of our 2023 interns, Mikayla Heston (she goes by “Kay”), was recently in touch about a new opportunity that she received with the Benton County Mental Health, Addictions, and Developmental Disabilities Advisory Committee (MHADDAC). Kay has accepted a role serving on the committee and will meet with them once per month to discuss topics related to the populations represented in the advisory committee.

The opportunity with MHADDAC presents a new challenge for Kay as a disability advocate, and she shared how the Summer Internship Program (SIP) helped to prepare her for the role. “[SIP] gave me insight and confidence to pursue health equity, especially for people with disabilities,” says Kay. Interns gain experience in the disability field, receive training on disability justice and advocacy, and learn about various career paths in health care.

“When I look back on my SIP program at Oregon Health & Science University, I realize that the field of rehabilitation medicine has a vast number of avenues to choose from and they all contribute to each other,” says Kay. “I really enjoyed working in both a clinical and an in-home setting with the patients in speech pathology.”

Kay has already received her Associate degree in General Studies and Science with an art emphasis from Linn-Benton Community College (LBCC). Currently a dual enrolled student at Oregon State University and LBCC, she expects to graduate with her bachelor’s in Kinesiology at the end of the school year. “My hope is to establish my own multidisciplinary rehabilitation clinic to foster confidence and independence in movement,” shares Kay. “I definitely think the SIP taught me important skills and values that are needed to sustain a successful clinical practice.”

The UCEDD Summer Internship Program was accepting applications for this summer’s program through January 15, 2024. Kay offered some advice for these future interns: “For the current group of interns, I would tell them to keep their mind open and explore their site as much as possible, especially if it’s a teaching hospital or clinic.”

Learn more about the SIP at www.ohsu.edu/sip