CENTER VALLEY, Pa. — To many students and alumni, Penn State Lehigh Valley is the institution that shaped their professional career and helped them become who they are today. Stephanie Bernal, a senior health policy and administration major, chose her major due to the combination of politics and public health that it offers — two topics she has always had an interest in. The Penn State Lehigh Valley Health Policy and Administration program is able to give her a degree that combines both of her passions. Bernal used the resources she found at Penn State Lehigh Valley to get a summer internship at Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Bernal cited the connections she gained from the Lehigh Valley campus as beneficial to her internship experience as well as the help she gained from the faculty members who have mentored her.
“Professor Anita Yuskauskas has been very encouraging and is always helping to connect my classmates and I with other professionals,” Bernal said.
In addition to working on a research project about the Emerging Health Professionals (EHP) program during her internship, Bernal was given the opportunity to shadow and observe inside the Department of Education’s simulation center, as well as shadow an infection prevention nurse.
Bernal’s own school was a major part of her research project since Penn State Lehigh Valley is one of the institutions that is a partner in the EHP program.
The program is run through a partnership between Lehigh Career and Technical Institute (LCTI), Penn State Lehigh Valley, Lehigh Carbon Community College and Lehigh Valley Health Network. It is for high-achieving high school seniors from Lehigh County interested in starting their education in the health care field. The program offers three core components for high school students: dual enrollment, career and technical education, and health care shadowing opportunities. Program partners also include St. Luke’s University Health Network, KidsPeace, Country Meadows, and Good Shepherd Rehabilitation Hospital.
Bernal was tasked with researching the views alumni have of the EHP program in her project titled “The Alumni Perception of Emerging Health Professionals Dual Enrollment Program and its Effects on Post-Secondary Education and Career Trajectory.” The data she acquired from interviewing various alumni and partners of the program will be used to determine the impact of the program.
She found in her research that the program is greatly beneficial to students. The job-shadowing aspect allows students to determine what career they want to pursue after they graduate, and the program is an excellent addition to their resumes no matter their future career path. Many of the alumni spoke highly of Thomas Heilman, instructor in biology at Penn State Lehigh Valley, who is one of the professors that teaches EHP students. Alumni also shared how the dual enrollment aspect of the program gave them a head start when they began college.
Bernal’s project will aid in the redevelopment of survey tools used to create validated alumni surveys, as well as to create an alumni database. Through her project, the members of the EHP program will be able to track students’ post-secondary and career trajectory long after they graduate.
Bernal had the opportunity to present her research project at Lehigh Valley Health Network. She was grateful for this experience to not only get to learn more about the EHP program, but to gain useful experience for a career in health policy and administration.
“It’s great that Penn State Lehigh Valley and so many of its staff have many connections around the community — in this case Lehigh Valley Health Network — where students can get internships and receive mentoring,” said Bernal.