Vascular surgeon Dr. Clifford Sales of Overlook Hospital in Summit was out one weekend with his wife Cathy and some friends who lamented that their son had no opportunities to learn about the medical field. The following Monday at work, Sales proposed what would become the Overlook Summer Internship Program (OSIP) and the response, he said, was a resounding “Yes.” This year’s program will be its tenth.
Thirty-five students applied for 15 spots back in 2010. Now more than 300 apply each year, with 17 making the cut — “That’s how many fit around the table” during group sessions, Dr. Sales explains. Fifty finalists are interviewed via Skype.
Most of the interns call New Jersey home, but they attend colleges and universities across the nation. Dr. Sales seeks a mix of from two-year and four-year colleges, as well as those from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Students interested in related fields, such as public health administration or pharmaceuticals, are also welcome to apply.
“This really pulls back the curtain to a hospital,” Sales says of the program. “It’s trying to understand some of the humanistic parts of what being a physician is like.”
OSIP takes place throughout June, with Mrs. Sales doing the scheduling. It starts with a Friday orientation, going over the basics of infection prevention, sterilization, patient rights and security. The students gather for a lecture each morning from Monday to Thursday, then spend the rest of the day shadowing a mentor who is a surgeon, nurse, social worker or administrator.
The interns find out what medical specialty suits them, but more important, they see first-hand the profession’s frustrations and achievements, and whether this demanding career matches their lifestyles. Students can find out if they can balance being a parent and a physicians or whether being a doctor is worth the four years of college, four years of medical school and a residency.
Each week concludes with a Friday lecture, including presentations on the business of medicine, applying to medical school, and death and dying, followed by a discussion about intern experiences — “Every week, someone saw a birth, someone saw a death, and everything in between,” Sales says.
Students tell him that experiences stay with them as they pursue their calling.