Health Career Connection (HCC) is a national nonprofit that provides college students, recent graduates and alumni with paid, full-time internships in healthcare fields. This unique internship program is offered in the Coachella Valley in partnership with the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP). The HCC/CVEP ten-week internship program provides underrepresented local college students with opportunities to gain hands-on experience, mentoring and networking connections with health professionals.

The gold-standard program provides host organizations with dynamic and talented interns. “In 2014, more than 3,000 students applied for 272 national placements.”1 Students undergo a rigorous screening process to ensure host internship sites are matched with interns that best fit the needs and projects of the organization. “Among intern hosts: 100% of preceptors recommend the program to colleagues. 95% repeat as host sites, many with multiple interns.”1

The collaborative effort by HCC/CVEP and partnering internship sites is yielding a pipeline of students committed to addressing the health challenges in this region. Now in its sixth year, HCC and CVEP are taking a closer look at alumni accomplishments. Following are brief narratives of three alumni: Joshue Leyva, Khoa Nguyen, and Anayeli Zavala.

Joshue Leyva graduated from Desert Hot Springs High School and the University of California, Los Angeles with a molecular biology degree in 2013. He interned at Eisenhower Medical Center where he developed a stroke educational manual for patients and hospital staff. Upon graduating, Joshue worked as an office manager for Congressman Raul Ruiz. He is now an EMT taking part in forming a medical brigade in Mexico. Through this medical contingent, he is providing medical care to people in disenfranchised and remote communities. Joshue plans to attend medical school in the future.

Khoa Nguyen graduated from Cathedral City High School. He moved on to the University of California, Riverside (UCR) and earned a neuroscience degree in 2012. He interned with Congressman Ruiz at the UCR School of Medicine. As an intern, he worked in tandem with medical students to create a community health resource manual. After graduating from UCR, Khoa worked for our Congressman as both a call manager and an office manager. He is now attending the UCR School of Medicine. 

Anayeli Zavala graduated from Desert Hot Springs High School and the University of California, Los Angeles with a psychology degree in 2012. She completed two HCC internship programs, one locally and one in Washington, DC. As a policy intern for The Praxis Project, she created a model policy database for a national comprehensive healthy school policy campaign. Locally, she managed health programming for NOVA Academy High School of Coachella where she wrote a grant for $55,000 to build an outdoor fitness facility. She is now with the HCC/CVEP internship program aiding in the coordination of this year’s internship cohort.

CVEP is generating a base of “locally grown professionals” to fill careers in healthcare management and policy, health education, community health, and other public health careers in the Coachella Valley.

For information on participating as a host organization or an intern, please contact Donna Sturgeon at [email protected]   (760) 340-1575.

References: 1) “Host an Intern, Prepare a Student for a Career.”  Coachella Valley Economic Partnership.

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