Derek Wright was surprised and thrilled last fall when he found out he had been accepted to an internship program with the prestigious Duke University Medical Center (DUMC) in Durham, N.C., especially since the internship in the cardiac rehab program is generally only offered to graduate students.
“I accepted it without hesitation. Having such a prestigious institution in the medical field, I was obviously extremely happy,” he said.
Wright, a native of Louisville, Ky., who transferred to UT Martin in 2008 to join the baseball program, received his undergraduate degree in May from the University of Tennessee at Martin where he majored in health and human performance (HHP). The HHP program requires an internship to graduate and Wright, landed his at the hospital that has a cardiology and heart surgery specialty ranked number seven in the country by the U.S.News and World Report.
“I was working with my advisor, Dr. Sherman, and we were trying to find internship sites,” he said, explaining that he initially contacted DUMC about a different internship but was told it was no longer available. “But they had another internship in my area of concentration, cardiac rehab … but they said, ‘Well, it’s only for graduate students.’”
Wright pursued the opportunity anyway and submitted his resume to the internship coordinator.
“I guess she liked it; she got in contact with Dr. Sherman,” he said. “And they called and offered me the spot.”
Wright, who had spent some time in the nursing program before switching to health and human performance, was already familiar with some of the knowledge and skills he would need at the internship including taking patients’ blood pressure and heart rate, and after finding an apartment during the Christmas break he began the internship in Durham in January 2012.
Three days a week at DUMC, Wright would work with heart patients in rehab sessions, taking blood pressure and making sure patients were ready for exercise.
“After we got them checked in and made sure it was safe for them to exercise. They would go to various pieces of equipment and we would get their heart rate again and go over symptoms while they exercised. And then we would get them checked back out,” he said.
Other days Wright’s group would visit new patients in the hospital who had been referred to the cardiac rehab program.
“It was basically, introduce them to rehab, tell them what it was, explain their benefits and how their insurance covers it,” he said.
In turn, the rapport Wright built with patients was one of his favorite parts of the experience.
“The impact with the actual patients … I know that when I left they were like, ‘I can’t believe you’re leaving. We don’t want you to go; we’re going to miss you,’” Wright said. “It makes you feel good that you could have an impact on somebody that’s significant enough that they were glad that you were there.”
Wright is currently in the process of selecting a graduate school to attend in the fall where he will study exercise physiology, and is thankful for his internship experience, which he says will be an asset when eventually applying for jobs in the medical field.
“It was a valuable learning experience with regards to the knowledge that I have, but also where I actually did the internship will be very beneficial,” he said.