IUP Students Part of IRMC Internship Program

Posted on 8/5/22 3:32 PM

It’s been the experience of a lifetime, preparing two Indiana University of Pennsylvania students for their lifetime careers.

David Fyock, Sam Clark, Tommy Letso

From left: David Fyock, Dr. Dan Clark, Tommy Letso

David Fyock and Tommy Letso, biology pre-medicine majors at IUP from Indiana County, are completing Indiana Regional Medical Center’s Pre-Med Undergraduate Summer Internship, shadowing physicians from eight different medical specialties, one each week of the eight-week internship.

The program, in its second year, was developed and is directed by IRMC’s Dan Clark, director of minimally invasive and robotic surgery and director of the IRMC Comprehensive Breast Center. In addition to offering interns one-on-one time with experienced physicians, it also includes networking opportunities and visits to medical schools in the region.

Only eight students are accepted for the program each year, based on a competitive application process.

Participants are required to attend every day of the eight-week session. Upon completion, participants receive a certificate documenting their 320 hours of participation that can be used for medical school applications. Medical schools require applicants to complete around 300 hours of clinical exposure, with at least 100 of them shadowing experience.

“I'm extremely proud of these students,” Clark said. “They are some of the best and brightest, and they have been well prepared and are very eager to learn. I want to thank all of my colleagues at IRMC for their willingness to work with the interns, and I also want to recognize IRMC and president and CEO, Steve Wolfe; the Indiana Healthcare Foundation; and Dr. Amanda Vaglia with the Family Medicine Residency program, for their support of this initiative, which will help to shape the next generation of physicians. It provides valuable experience for these students and often leads to career-long relationships, and I am very proud of IRMC for its willingness to provide this opportunity.”

The interns shadow physicians in six core areas: general and vascular; orthopedics; family practice; pediatric medicine; anesthesiology; and emergency medicine and urgent care. They have the opportunity to choose from two of seven elective specialties: ear, nose, and throat; obstetrics and gynecology; intensive care unit; pulmonary medicine; cardiology; oncology; and pain management.

“We really appreciate IRMC for offering this opportunity for our students,” N. Bharathan, IUP professor of biology and coordinator of IUP’s pre-medicine program, said. “It provides a significant advantage to our students as it helps them to discover what most interests them, gain practical experience, and hone their people skills. Such internships in a hospital setting also provide valuable content for their medical school application process and interviews. IRMC is an incredible resource for IUP and for our community,” he said.

Fyock, son of David Fyock and Sandra Fyock of Clymer, is a 2019 graduate of Purchase Line Junior-Senior High School and graduated magna cum laude from IUP in May. While at IUP, he was a dean’s list student, the recipient of the Sutton Scholarship, and a member of the American Chemical Society and the American Medical Students Association.

Letso, son of Deborah Letso and Thomas Letso of Heilwood, is a 2020 graduate of Penns Manor High School and will complete his studies at IUP during the fall semester. He is a dean’s list student at IUP and the recipient of the Sutton Scholarship.

“When I was in high school, I looked into many different careers, thinking I could see myself doing many things,” Fyock said. “When I was a senior in high school, I wanted to work in aerospace engineering, then I switched to computer science—which is the major I had when I applied to IUP—and then after coming to IUP, I switched to pre-med.”

Letso, who had always been interested in a career in medicine, started at IUP as a nursing major, thinking about becoming a traveling nurse. He switched to pre-med because he wanted to be in more of a leadership position as a physician.

Both men were successful in being selected for the program in the second year of applying, and both are glad they persisted and applied for the second year.

“We both would definitely advise any IUP student who is interested in a career in medicine to apply for this program,” Fyock said.

“I wanted to see how doctors interact and work on a day-to-day basis,” Letso said. “This has been a great opportunity for me to really see different specialties and see what I might want to do.”

Both Fyock and Letso chose cardiology as an elective shadowing opportunity; Fyock chose oncology as his second elective, and Letso chose obstetrics and gynecology.

“I was certain, after my undergraduate classes, that I wanted to work in medicine, but I wanted to see if the physician role was something I wanted to do,” Fyock said. “I felt that the internship program would give me a chance to figure out what specialty would be best for me.”

“I also wanted to see how different doctors in different specialties interact with other physicians and patients,” Fyock said. “I didn’t really understand the whole picture of these specialties, but this program has shown me much more about what these doctors are actually doing.”

Fyock just finished taking his Medical College Admission Test (generally required by all medical schools) and is taking a gap year before going on to medical school. He graduated a year early from IUP and completed the training to be an emergency medical technician through IUP’s Center for Rural Health and Safety. Upon completion of the internship, he will begin working as an EMT.

He said that he’s been interested in dermatology, but after his experience with the program, he’s also interested in anesthesiology and oncology.

Both Fyock and Letso said that the physicians have been extremely welcoming to the interns and that the patients also have been very nice about having them be part of their exam or their visit to the participating doctors.

“Signing up for the internship this summer has been a very rewarding commitment, and I’ve been very happy to be part of the program,” Letso said.

Letso has enjoyed learning more about each area, and he’s still on the fence about picking a specialty because they have all been so interesting. In addition to his experiences at IRMC, he has appreciated the presentations from visiting physicians and off-site tours of a Pittsburgh medical school and hospital. He’s thinking about medical school in Pennsylvania or in Florida. He just took his MCAT exam and will be applying for medical school admission for fall 2024.

Both men said that their IUP classes have been strong preparation for the internship and, in Fyock’s case, his work as an EMT.

“My classes at IUP did prepare me for what I’m hearing in the hospital,” Letso said. “For example, when the doctors are talking about lab work or different parts of the body, I understand what they are saying because of my classes—the coursework in my classes has stuck with me.”

“I really feel that between my classes at IUP and IUP’s EMT program, I have a very good understanding of what the physicians are talking about, even some of the procedures, and I have a good understand of the why,” Fyock said.

Both men agreed that “the doctors at IRMC are doing an amazing job explaining their work to us. It’s been an incredible experience,” they said.