Mariela Cadena Hernandez ’23

San Francisco Free Clinic, San Francisco, CA

This summer I was fortunate to be able to intern at the San Francisco Free Clinic with their amazing team. This clinic was founded by Patricia and Richard Gibbs, current doctors at the clinic, to focus on providing care for anyone who does not have insurance. During my time here, I rotated through many areas of the clinic; the front desk, the nurses’ station with the MAs, shadowing medical students and doctors, and even helping translate for Spanish speakers as well as conducting my own public health research project. I gained many skills, such as how to check in and take patients’ vitals, performing venipuncture and conducting lab tests.

Additionally, working at the clinic gave me a clearer view on the work schedules of doctors—whether full or part time—and what a career in medicine could look like from that perspective. I learned many skills I would need as I continue to pursue a career in medicine, and I valued all the advice and stories I received from the doctors, medical students, residents and MAs in the clinic.

Another aspect of this internship was being able to conduct public health research on an issue that would help the clinic, specifically colon cancer screening. The age that is recommended for colon cancer has dropped from 50 to 45 years of age. Colon cancer is the third leading cause of cancer death in the U.S., and being able to provide reliable screening is important in fighting against this, especially in a population of uninsured patients who are already facing hardships accessing medical care they need.

Being able to perform this type of research and implement some interventions in the clinic that showed improvements taught me a lot about all the steps that are needed from the start. Being able to work in a variety of areas in the clinic was also a factor that allowed me to be more informed when implementing new standards of work. Conducting this type of project at the clinic has made me more interested in implementing this into a career as I pursue medicine. Shadowing doctors who have chosen to use their knowledge and profession to help those who do not have access to insurance to ensure they are still able to get free care has motivated me to keep pursuing medicine. I am especially interested in a path that helps those who need it the most and also implementing public health into my career in order to keep making progress in the field of medicine.

After I graduate from Williams, I want to pursue public health research and learn more about that field before going to medical school. I am so thankful for the SF Free Clinic team for being patient and understanding throughout my internship and for creating an incredible learning environment. Lastly, I would also like to thank Drs. Patricia and Richard Gibbs as well as the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for this incredible opportunity!