Campus News

New Internship Introduces Teens to Health Care Careers


For nearly ten years, Jessica Van Tuyl has worked at the nonprofit Oasis for Girls. The organization, which serves over 150 young women of color each year, provides a variety of life and career development programs to under-resourced neighborhoods in San Francisco. 

“Many of our girls want to go into medical careers,” explained Van Tuyl “but often lack the opportunity to explore the diverse career paths that health care encompasses.” 

This year, the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery, LinkedIn, and Oasis for Girls teamed up to address this specific need. Together, they launched the GROW Internship – a program providing interns with unique access to a variety of roles in the UCSF medical system. 

On August 8, San Francisco teenagers Theresa Cruz, Nelsey Garcia, Hannah Ma, and Kelly Ye became the first graduates of the new GROW internship program. Paired with mentors across UCSF’s Department of Neurological Surgery, the young women were exposed to a variety of health care careers.


GROW Internship Graduation
At their graduation celebration, the interns celebrate with their mentors from the UCSF Department of Neurological Surgery. From left: Susan Chang, MD (Director of the Division of Neuro-Oncology), Kelly Ye, Hannah Ma, Sasha Mortezaei (Chief Administrative Officer), Ivy Tom (Financial Service Analyst), Theresa Cruz, and Nelsey Garcia.


For most of the interns, the highlight of the 8-week program was a visit to the operating room where they observed pediatric neurosurgeon Kurtis Auguste, MD, perform surgery on an 11-month-old infant. The successful operation involved the surgical insertion of a shunt (a thin tube) to drain excess liquid from the patient’s brain.

Some people might feel squeamish about watching brain surgery, but the girls were only fascinated. To them, the entire day was memorable and exciting down to the last detail – from wearing scrubs, to experiencing “the smell of a real hospital.”

The GROW internship also featured rotations with non-medical staff in UCSF’s Department of Neurological Surgery. By highlighting health care careers beyond the well-known physician and nursing professions, the program exposed the teens to the myriad of roles required to keep a hospital running.

GROW interns
Interns Kelly Ye (left) and Hannah Ma (middle), with their UCSF mentor Ivy Tom (right), before observing a surgery at Benioff Children’s Hospital.

“There’s much more that happens behind the scenes that makes people feel better than just the surgery part,” said Garcia, whose favorite part of the internship was working at the clinic, where she helped check-in patients, file medical folders, and plan the clinic’s schedule.

For all the interns, learning important job and administrative skills was a tangible outcome that they were able to include on their brand new LinkedIn profiles. From using Microsoft Powerpoint and Excel, to composing professional emails, the teens were continually gaining the experience necessary to thrive in a professional environment. 

Towards the end of the internship, the girls attended an intensive career planning and training session at LinkedIn, where they took their first steps towards a polished resume. Garcia’s mother, expressing gratitude at the graduation ceremony, said “Nelsey really did learn a lot. Every day she came home with something new to tell me.” 

Cruz, a senior at Balboa High School, appreciated the many mentors she met, and the realistic advice she heard along the way. One insight from pediatric neuro-oncologist and scientist Theodore Nicolaides particularly stuck with her: “Success includes failing many times. People that go through medical school are not always perfect.” For all these girls, the chance to meet and talk to doctors, nurses, and health care professionals who were once in their shoes was at once an inspiration and example for what can be achieved. 

Van Tuyl hopes to expand the GROW internship program in future years, with the ultimate goal of empowering young women with both the skills and the confidence to build their future careers. For Ye, aspiring surgeon and sixteen-year-old high school senior, the internship program did just that: “It really inspired me to keep going even though there is so much schooling.” 

High school junior Ma added, “Because of this, I have a better idea of what I want to be when I grow up, and the kind of environment I want to work in.”