by Melissa Lacas
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.
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, June 12, 2009