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Graduate intern experiences dream job

by Melissa Lacas
Public Relations
Walking out of Human Resources with my Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha in one hand, my NetID package in the other, I clipped a freshly-printed student ID card to my new business attire. I was ready for a life-changing experience.
Melissa Lacas

As I entered the Office of Public Relations to officially begin my graduate internship, I reflected on how I got there. After diligently searching for jobs as a college graduate, I decided to pursue graduate school and enrolled in The Citadel’s Master in Business Administration program. When attempting to land my “dream job,” I wrote professors, friends, extended family members—and even complete strangers—to get help finding a position in public relations or a related communications job. My persistence paid off when my undergraduate public relations campaigns teacher told me she knew of a friend who worked in health care public relations—my “dream industry.” I instantly e-mailed Cindy Abole, public relations intern coordinator, and followed up with several phone calls before I landed the graduate internship in the MUSC Office of Public Relations.
As I walked through the glass doors of the office that morning, I reminded myself that although I would not get college credit or a paycheck at the end of this internship, I knew I would gain something. I later found that “something” included skills, knowledge, professional relationships, mentors, friends and the best professional experience of my young life.
With three undergraduate internships under my belt, I felt confident as I approached The Catalyst editor, Kim Draughn, and asked for my first assignment. As I was given a few names, an address, a camera and a story idea, I realized that the public relations office had given me the gift of confidence along with my first assignment.
On the morning that my first Catalyst article, which was on the Anderson House and S.C. College of Pharmacy (SCCP), was published, I arrived at work 15 minutes early to check out the newspaper stand. I opened The Catalyst newspaper, inhaled the smell of fresh ink on newsprint and spotted my first article. I was now a published author. My work would not only be distributed through the estimated 7,000 copies around campus; but potentially through more than 500,000 hits on The Catalyst Web site.
I still remember walking through the office that day and receiving numerous compliments from individuals in my office; and I received an e-mail praising my work from MUSC campus SCCP dean, Arnold Karig, Ph.D. This was just the beginning of the dedication and positive energy that I saw in the hearts and minds of MUSC employees and students during my internship.
As I continued to write stories, I was surprised by the enthusiasm I received in the public relations office. Each and every morning and throughout the day I was greeted by the department administrator, Shar Atkins, who often shared newspaper articles on job hunting and networking. Draughn and Abole were always smiling and welcoming and approached me weekly with several stories, letting me pick and chose those that interested me. Mary Helen Yarborough reviewed each story I had written, constantly praised my work, gave me career advice and offered helpful writing suggestions through her copy editing.
As I moved to the media relations side of my internship, I worked closely with Heather Woolwine, Megan Fink and Maggie Diebolt, who included me in media escorts, press conferences and media coverage for graduation. I was impressed by their ability to handle stressful situations, as well as their knowledge of MUSC. Jeff Watkins shared advice and showed me a preview of the commencement Web site he produced. Sarah King, DHA, department director, consistently thanked me for my commitment and shared her secrets of success while often inviting me into her office to discuss my experiences and future endeavors. No matter how busy the day, every employee in the public relations office would greet me with a smile in the morning and leave me with pride and inspiration in the evening.
As I learned more about each hospital and college, I realized that the idea of excellence spread far beyond the public relations office. While working with Roby Hill, SCCP director of communications, both SCCP executive dean Joseph DiPiro, PharmD, and Karig worked with me on articles. They exhibited a genuine interest in my internship and articles. Students and employees, including MUSC President Ray Greenberg, M.D., Ph.D., took time out of their busy schedules to respond to e-mails and phone calls, personally meet with me and accommodate me in fulfilling my assignments.
As I wrap up the end of my four-month internship, I am thankful for the many employees, students, researchers, volunteers and staff that made my experience  enjoyable. I am hopeful that my skills and abilities will allow me to pursue my dream of working a full-time position in health care public relations.

Editor's note: To contact Lacas e-mail

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Catalyst Online is published weekly by the MUSC Office of Public Relations for the faculty, employees and students of the Medical University of South Carolina. The Catalyst Online editor, Kim Draughn, can be reached at 792-4107 or by email, Editorial copy can be submitted to The Catalyst Online and to The Catalyst in print by fax, 792-6723, or by email to To place an ad in The Catalyst hardcopy, call Island Publications at 849-1778, ext. 201.