DANBURY, Connecticut — Western Connecticut State University students don’t sit still over the summer. They work, volunteer, take classes and/or complete internships to keep their momentum going. This past summer, students from the WCSU Minorities in Medicine club completed internships that helped with their goals to pursue careers in health care.
The Minorities in Medicine club was created for “socially underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students to explore the medical field and prepare for professional schooling.” Founded in 2017, the WCSU chapter’s mission is to “redefine the strength and determination of pre-health students through collaboration and diversity,” and members work to “lessen racial and social disparities in health care and empower students interested in the medical field.”
Past events for the club included a seminar on the fundamentals of suturing, humanitarian trips to Puerto Rico and attendance at medical conferences. The club also offers aid, including financial, for medical school applications and school supplies.
So, when some of the members of Minorities in Medicine found dream internships this summer, they turned to the WCSU Foundation for assistance. In total, the Foundation was able to help five members. It all started last spring, when the Minorities in Medicine club encouraged students with strong GPAs and interest in furthering their skill set in the medical field to apply for support for certain internships. The team at Minorities in Medicine reviewed the applications and recommended their top choices to the WCSU Foundation. They also researched the field placements. Then both groups met and reviewed the funding that was available and made the final decisions on who would receive funding.
Two of the recipients were Amiyah Buan ’24 and Nandika Puri ’24.
Buan, a B.S. in Biochemistry major and Humanities minor, and also a Kathwari Honors Program scholar, interned at the Center of Neurostimulation in the Department of Neurology at the Yale School of Medicine, New Haven. She is also a research assistant in the Quraishi Lab, Department of Neurology, at Yale, since her first summer internship there that started in summer 2022. As a research assistant and intern, her duties include data analysis, reading EEGs and cognitive and behavioral testing with patients diagnosed with epilepsy for various neurological studies.
While her whole experience was valuable, one of the “most important things” Buan has learned is to embrace change, and that “the best things in life are on the other side of fear.”
“There were so many times where I was hesitant and terrified to do something, to ask something, to participate, but I learned to do it anyway. Through this experience, I was able to grow significantly in the field of neuroscience and in my lab; I was empowered to know that the only true limits are those set by myself,” Buan said.
Being part of the Minorities in Medicine club, including serving as its president for three years, was very beneficial to Buan. “The experience I gained leading the Minorities in Medicine club has helped me grow as a leader, as an academic and as a person. It was a privilege. The club, a supportive, safe and diverse community, has allowed me to attain important qualities that are advantageous to have in the work force. It is so empowering to see people that look like me in such established and high-ranking positions,” she said. After graduation, Buan plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Chemistry and perhaps an M.D. as well.
Being so busy and hardworking actually made the thought of doing this internship almost a dream that wouldn’t come true, until the WCSU Foundation stepped in.
“It was very important to receive funding from the WCSU Foundation, as the support allowed me to find an apartment to sublet so that I could easily commute to the school and back. Without it, I wouldn’t have been able to undertake the internship as the commute to Yale and back five days a week (working with patients from 8 a.m. – 4 p.m.) would have been too difficult with all my other commitments and activities at WCSU,” Buan explained.
Puri, who interned at New Haven Dental, also indicated that support from the WCSU Foundation was integral for her effort. “It was especially important for me to receive funding from the WCSU Foundation to do this internship; it helped me to stay motivated and give it my full attention to do my best there since I did not have to work outside of the internship days to pay for my daily expenses. I truly thank the WCSU Foundation for providing me with the funds to stay focused on my internship and do well,” she said.
Her internship was designed for pre-dental students, and involved shadowing general dentists and oral surgeons, learning about procedures and dental terminology, examining X-rays, and gaining hands-on experience at the dental practice.
A Biology major and thinking about pursuing a chemistry minor, Puri is on a pre-dental track and she plans to go to dental school and become a dentist after graduating from WCSU. She also credits the Minorities in Medicine club as a reason she thinks these dreams can come true.
“Belonging to Minorities in Medicine at WCSU, and serving as a treasurer to this amazing nonprofit organization, really helps me to get a better understanding about working in health care by getting the opportunities that enhance our pre-health care experience at WCSU, and also helps me to become a better student,” Puri said. “I am very grateful to WCSU and the Minorities in Medicine organization for providing us with tools, resources and people who can guide us toward our future goals. This internship has really helped me to get an insight into how dental procedures work and the life of a dentist. It also helped me to gain my shadowing hours, which is an important aspect of dental school requirements. Being a dental assistant already, I enhanced my knowledge and experience through this internship,” she explained.
Puri feels that the most important thing she learned from this experience is that “becoming a dentist is a very rewarding career since you help make patients’ oral health better and help relieve the pain they are experiencing. Throughout this internship experience, I was assured that I want to become a dentist and help people gain confidence in their smiles.”
Supporting these internships is part of the WCSU Foundation’s mission, which is to promote, encourage and assist all forms of education and research at Western Connecticut State University. These internships enrich students’ learning experiences outside the classroom and allow them to further their skill set without the financial burden.
The funding for these internships comes from generous donors who have expressed interest in supporting these types of initiatives. A majority of the funding is provided by the Hancock STEM fund, which supports females in the STEM fields, and from the Kathwari Honors fund, which supports students’ travel, research, etc. for those in the Honors program.
The three other students who undertook Minorities in Medicine internships sponsored by the WCSU Foundation were Joseph Caroleo ’26 and Ezaan Kahn ’24, both at the University of North Carolina, and Reginarose Ryan ’25, for Yale School of Nursing, Nam Lab.
For more information, contact WCSU Communications and Marketing at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Western Connecticut State University changes lives by providing all students with a high-quality education that fosters their growth as individuals, scholars, professionals and leaders in a global society. Our vision: To be widely recognized as a premier public university with outstanding teachers and scholars who prepare students to contribute to the world in a meaningful way.