What would you expect to learn from an internship in health care? Three summer interns share their experience working for Cambia and what surprised them about the health care industry.
Internships offer a small taste of the real world and an opportunity to work in a desired field. Interns at Cambia engage in challenging assignments that are crucial to the transformation of health care. To learn more about a newcomer’s perspective of the health care industry, we spoke with three interns who spent the summer working at Cambia. In this episode, the interns share what they liked about the work they completed, what surprised them and what their hopes are for the future of health care.
Jeremy Solly (JS): Welcome to the HealthChangers podcast presented by Cambia Health Solutions, where we share real stories of health care transformation, from those experiencing it to those helping to make health care more personalized. I'm your host, Jeremy.
So far on HealthChangers, we've interviewed people with deep roots in the health care industry. But for this episode, we thought we'd get a fresh perspective from some newcomers: three interns who spent the summer working here at Cambia. These interns represent the future leaders in health care.
We wanted to know what surprised them and what their hopes are for the future of health care. Before we dive in, let's meet the interns.
Left to right: Wendy Godfrey, Hillary Bergh, Alex Whedon
Wendy Godfrey (WG): Hi, I'm Wendy Godfrey, I just graduated from Portland State University with my accounting degree and my internship is in internal audit.
Hillary Bergh (HB): Hi, I'm Hillary Bergh and I'm in my final term with Western Governors University getting my health care administration degree. And I'm interning with the human performance and well-being team.
Alex Whedon (AW): Hi, I'm Alex Whedon, I just finished my second year at BYU, studying actual science and I am interning as an actuary.
"I kind of evolved my career out of hospitality and dove into health care so that I can better understand, selfishly for myself, and in the hopes that I can then make it more clear for others and help people see the transparency."
JS: Welcome you guys, thank you for being here today with HealthChangers. So first we wanted to know, why did you guys pursue an internship in health care?
WG: I can go first.
JS: Thanks, Wendy.
WG: There's a lot of change in the health care industry and being an internal auditor, or being an auditor, you're always learning. And so it's an opportunity to be able to continue to learn and continue to find out about important issues like health care.
JS: Thanks. So Hillary, why did you pursue this internship?
HB: Well, it stems from my personal health care journey over the years—myself, as well as helping my grandparents navigate the Medicare and end-of-life and palliative care that they were dealing with many years ago. And I just…it was such a confusing space to try and figure out who to talk to, what the options were, and when I got the options, what they actually were telling me.
And so I kind of evolved my career out of hospitality and dove into health care so that I can better understand, selfishly for myself, and in the hopes that I can then make it more clear for others and help people see the transparency.
JS: I want to ask you one follow-up question. What were you doing before you started this?
HB: I most recently was self-employed as a private chef and nutrition coach working one-on-one with clients who had autoimmune conditions, and I also did consulting with restaurants to help them better implement food allergy programs.
JS: Did that help, lead you—because you're in the wellness space here at Cambia, did that lead you into that?
HB: Yes. Yeah, got my foot in the door because I had that previous experience in the wellness area.
JS: And Alex. So why are you pursuing, or why did you pursue this internship?
AW: I think health care is interesting because we provide a nationally important service that helps a lot of people. But at the same time there are a lot of things we are doing that don't necessarily help people.
So I thought it would be a fantastic opportunity to see what could be done in the way of innovation, to make this extremely important service truly help serve people.
"I got the chance to work with interns in all of the departments, get to know what they did, get to know more about their project."
JS: You're all about to wrap up your internship, is that correct?
WG, HB, AW: Yes.
JS: So was it what you expected? What were the things that either surprised you, or were there things that you didn't expect out of it?
AW: Yeah, I was surprised by how much I got to understand the business as a whole. I expected to just be doing my actuarial analysis in the actuarial department and possibly being innovative there. But I got the chance to work with interns in all of the departments, get to know what they did, get to know more about their project.
And then I got to pursue my own innovation idea which I'm still currently pursuing, that could turn into a project over the next two semesters. So I did not expect to get this much understanding of the business side as a whole and be able to pursue my own ideas this much either.
JS: Hillary, what surprised you?
HB: I guess I was similar to Alex: most surprised by how open and willing everyone was to share and by how much cross-department involvement there was.
And I'm amazed at how much I've learned in this short amount of time. Not just with insurance, but health care as just a very broad area. It's amazing all of the different avenues that are here.
JS: And you, Wendy?
WG: I have to agree with both Alex and Hillary. There are some things that I expected, like the actual work was familiar to me. But the brown bag lunches, and the ability to talk to the CEO, and the willingness of everybody to do informational interviews with us—I wasn't expecting quite such an amazing amount of support from everybody here.
"The hardest thing for me was trying to figure out all the acronyms. And just the verbiage that you know people are so quick to just throw out."
JS: You guys have been very positive about your time here, but it's okay, you're almost done. So what, what are, was there a part that you felt like you really struggled and can you tell us about it?
HB: The hardest thing for me was trying to figure out all the acronyms. And just the verbiage that you know people are so quick to just throw out just do this, this, this. I don't know what any of that means. So trying to get them to realize that they should talk to me like they talk to a consumer on the phone or a patient who has no clue and I need to know basics. That was the hardest.
WG: I don't think that I struggled very much because while a lot of things about this internship and the job that I was doing are challenging, I have a lot of support from the people that I work for and with. It is okay to not know something. And it is okay to ask, and if you don't do that, then you will struggle. But as long as you know that you have the support of your team I know that I'm able to get through it and learn more.
AW: Yeah, I'd have to agree that the hardest part was probably just trying to assimilate into the company process. I mean, my work focuses around financial, predicting financial outcomes and I spent the first few weeks trying to wrap my head around the billing system which has nothing to do with what I do. So there was a lot of domain knowledge that I really struggled to understand.
"Be fearless and don't be afraid to kind of push boundaries and ask questions and know your why."
JS: That's good insight, guys. If there's one thing that you could share about your experience, if there's one thing that really stood out in your mind what would you like to share?
WG: Constant learning. I feel that I have learned so much in the past 12 weeks but I also feel like there is a lot for me still to be able to learn and the opportunity to grow here is really important.
JS: What about you guys? Hillary?
HB: Be fearless and don't be afraid to kind of push boundaries and ask questions and know your why.
AW: I think there are two things that, I mean I from what I understand you may be asking for advice for future interns.
AW: That was one of your questions.
JS: Yeah, what advice would you have?
AW: I think there are two things. First I think it's important to get to know everything you can even if it's on related to your current position. We had our capstone event and I met a lot of people there that I thought were interesting and so we met up for dinner another day, and then we started making plans together, now I've gone to the beach, we've gone out to lunch, we've gone out to dinner, we went tubing down the river on air mattresses last weekend.
So we've done all sorts of stuff like that, and while we've done these things, we've talked about our project. And you know, I've just been amazed at all the different things that have been going on and a lot of what they've talked about has helped me formulate better ideas about my own innovation idea. So I think it's extremely important to learn from everybody even if they do something that may seem completely unrelated to what you are currently doing.
And then the second thing that I think is important is to pursue anything you think is worthwhile. We've all had the opportunity to pursue ideas that we came up with on our own and we have received support from others, but even within my actual traditional internship project, I realized that there are a lot of processes that could be automated. And this was a part of my project that ended up being a significant part of my project is I automated a lot of processes. And that was another example of something where I had an idea and I just went after it. And I think that has been a very positive experience for me. Realizing that some of the ideas that I get randomly can be things that can actually make a difference.
"You guys probably used Dr. Google and have been trying to sort through this and navigate this on your own. And you were looking for a way to make that easier for people."
JS: So you guys hit on innovation. I think you all kind of talked a little bit about that. So over the course of your internship, there was an intern igniter challenge, correct?
WG, HB, AW: Yes.
JS: Does one of you want to tell me what that is? Hillary?
HB: Sure. It was an internal challenge, there's an innovation team within Cambia that really drives everyone in the building to think of ideas that can help transform health care and make it better for the consumer. And so as interns, we were all given the challenge to come up with some ideas we see as potential pain points. And it was really exciting to see how many different ideas we generated and then how those ideas were kind of highlighted and expanded upon over the course of the time.
JS: And at each of you submit an idea to the challenge?
WG, HB, AW: Yes.
HB: I think we all submitted a few.
JS: Really? Would each of you tell me about one, maybe your favorite or best thing that you submitted just in brief?
JS: Alex, go ahead.
AW: Yeah, my idea was to create an application that consumers could type in their symptom or diagnosis and obtain information about which treatments would be most cost-effective and most likely to help them. And I figured this would be extremely important because one of the most contributing factors to the rising cost of health care is that we do not use cost-efficient services.
And then also recently my wife has had to undergo a variety of procedures for a condition, and we've had a really tough time trying to access information online as to what is truly going to be most effective for her. And even doctors tend to have their biases. It would be really nice to have statistically sound information we could access.
JS: So through your personal journey, it sounds like you guys probably used Dr. Google and have been trying to sort through this and navigate this on your own. And you were looking for a way to make that easier for people, right?
AW: Yeah, to use information that we only have access to here at Cambia—to give information to everybody else.
JS: Great. Wendy, what was your idea?
WG: So mine was, I had a couple of different ones, but they were both with the intention to try to simplify the complicated information that you get from health insurance or you know doctors. So one of the ideas was kind of like a trivia game for updated news on your health coverage that you would be getting an app for. Just to make it fun to learn the new, new things that are happening in health care or –
JS: So like Words with Friends, but like health insurance edition?
WG: Yes. Exactly. Like an app that you could just do in order to learn any new laws or anything that you needed to know about. And just kind of make it fun. And then there was another one that it was trying to match doctors with patients depending on what your beliefs are, and what your needs are, and what your values are. And location, kind of like a matching up.
JS: Match? For doctors right?
WG: Match for doctors.
JS: I love it. And Hillary what was your idea?
HB: I did have a couple. I think the one that I would most like to see happen I called “Bring it Together.” Over my life, I've had many different doctors, and being in many different states, my trail of medical history has kind of been lost. So to have a way to bring all of those different components together, and keep it updated with future.
As well as bringing in my family's history to kind of then provide ideally kind of a potential what-if scenario for the future. Like if I have had these issues in the past, or my family has had these issues in the past, I should proactively take these measures to not have that issue. And then it would just kind of store everything together. It would hopefully also bring in pricing and all of those different components that just are bits and pieces everywhere.
"I believe that there are enough people bringing about innovation that we will soon hopefully have more, with the up-and-coming generation, that I do have hope."
JS: Interesting, I like that. So, I'm going to switch gears a little bit. When you were here, as you are here at Cambia, you're seeing a lot of new innovations and ideas happening and being applied to health care. And I'd say arguably, the interns in the program are going to be the future generations of leaders. And the health care that we're creating, the health care of tomorrow, will be applied to. So are you guys hopeful about the pace of progress and what's happening with health care in general?
HB: I'll go first.
JS: Go ahead Hillary.
HB: I think I'm much more hopeful now since being in this internship. There's been a lot of political uncertainty and there still is going forward, but seeing what Cambia is doing and how all of the employees here are really trying to make a difference, and make it not just be about the money and about the insurance, but really about the people. The Cause really, really hits home for me.
JS: Alex what about you, are you hopeful?
AW: Yeah, I have to agree with Hillary that coming to the internship I was a little worried based off some of the things I had seen and heard about health care, but during my time here at Cambia I have been reassured that there are people trying to make a difference in health care, and there is innovation.
Because I think if innovation were not to come about in health care, then I would have no hope. But I believe that there are enough people bringing about innovation that we will soon hopefully have more with the up and coming generation that I do have hope. I think there are a lot of good things to come.
JS: What about you, Wendy?
WG: I'm along the same lines as they are. It is a very uncertain time in terms of health care and the politics of health care right now. But I asked a question once at the internship brown bags, and I asked “How hard is it to continue your goals as a community person focused health care company?” And Mark Ganz actually said “Not hard, because we know where we want to go and we have this goal to make it,” I'm not quoting –
JS: You're paraphrasing.
WG: Yeah I'm paraphrasing, but it was more of the sense that it doesn't matter what the politics are. That really made a difference to me.
"I was worried that we were just going to keep doing things the same way for decades in the future."
JS: Alex, I have a question just for you. You mentioned earlier you weren't sure about the health care industry, do you think you'll pursue a career in it?
AW: I still have another year left at school but I think it probably will and I had to say I was definitely doubting my decision to accept a job in health care probably a few months ago, but since I've been here it's helped me realize that there is so much to do, I don't see why I wouldn't want to work here.
JS: Why were you doubting a job in health care before?
AW: I was worried that things just weren't changing. Because I mean the last time the tax code was rewritten for health insurance companies was in the 80s. And I was worried that we were just going to keep doing things the same way for decades in the future and I didn't want to be…I like innovation. And I want to be part of an industry where that was present and you know being here has helped me realize that it is, I just haven't had the chance to realize it yet.
"There is nothing better than working to help people, so whatever you do, whether it be in health care, outside of health care make sure you're working to actually help somebody."
JS: We've talked a lot about those within health care, what about your peers outside of health care, what have you learned here and your experience with health care that you could share with them, any kind of advice about navigating the system or how we can work together to kind of transform and improve this industry?
WG: I think that it's very important to be informed about the goings on of what is happening in the health care industry. And in addition to that make your voice known and push for what you want and what you believe in.
JS: Well said, Wendy.
HB: I just ditto everything she said plus ask lots of questions.
JS: Alex you got anything to add?
AW: Yeah. There is nothing better than working to help people, so whatever you do, whether it be in health care, outside of health care make sure you're working to actually help somebody.
"Don't forget who you're here for."
JS: In reflecting on your time here and the people you've interacted with do you guys have any advice for us, the people working in health care today?
WG: Don't get discouraged.
HB: Don't forget who you're here for.
AW: I really like that. I mean I've just realized that a lot of things, there's a lot of innovation going on in the back end of health care that I've seen here at Cambia that we don't really get to see as consumers. But from recent experiences, I realized that I think maybe the part of health care in which we need to work the hardest is the consumer on the front end. So like she said just…what did you say exactly?
HB: Remember who you're working for?
AW: Yeah that was it, I really liked that.
JS: Great. Wendy, Alex, Hillary, thank you guys so much for being here and being interns here at Cambia and thanks for being part of the podcast.
WG, HB, AW: Thank you.