HSM junior Soliana Ghidewon gained valuable insights in her community outreach internship with Allina Health

Internships are invaluable experiences that help aspiring health care leaders gain real-world experience, build practical skills, and explore their chosen field. The Health Services Management internship gives students the opportunity to not only put their classroom knowledge to the test, but also allow for essential connections with other health care professionals. For Soliana Ghidewon, it was also a way to connect with people on the ground in their communities and get a feel for what type of work she might find most fulfilling.

Over the summer of 2022, Soliana worked as the community engagement and health improvement intern for Allina Health. “I did a lot of marketing and promotion, and did things like researching and writing newsletters,” she says. “The two big initiatives I worked on were Hello4Health and Change to Chill.”

Soliana Ghidewon stands with right elbow on short white wall behind her and left hand on hip wearing a maroon and gold U of M hoodie and black leggings

Hello4Health is an initiative that encourages social connection among adults. “We were looking for a way to connect the initiative with National Night Out,” says Soliana. “I spent some time researching games that could be included in a little box that neighbors could collect from a nearby location like a fire station and then play with each other. During the pandemic they noticed that the isolation really impacted people’s mental health, so gaining back that social connection was really crucial.”

“For Change to Chill, I was more focused on doing a literature review,”  Soliana said about the initiative that focuses on teen mental health. “They work with schools and my task was to look at the previous school partnerships and analyze how successful they were, based on surveys and posts from the students. Then we chose what could be brought into future school partnerships and how to continue to make those partnerships better.”

Soliana was also responsible for putting together the newsletters for each initiative. “They would give me a topic they wanted to focus on and then allowed me to create something I felt would reflect the initiative. For example, for Hello4Health, I listed some outdoor activities that people could take part in. After I put the newsletter together, the leads would review it, and I’d put it into Mail Chimp to email it out,” she says.

HSM coursework prepares students to lead

One of the things that most intrigued Soliana was sitting in on planning meetings. “They were in the middle of their strategic planning process for the next five years. That was really interesting to see, the frameworks and best practices that we discussed in the courses getting applied in this real organization. I felt like I was able to understand what they were doing because we had discussed it in class.”

Another skill that intersected with her courses was teamwork. “In general, HSM prepares you for that collaborative work, so it was super helpful being able to apply that to the internship.”

Soliana Ghidewon stands with hands clasped in front wearing a maroon and gold U of M hoodie and black leggings

One moment during her internship stands out for Soliana, which helped her understand how the various topics in HSM were preparing her to do the work of a health care leader. It was during a presentation to a summer school program in Shakopee for Change to Chill. After the presentation, a young Black student, who had been quiet during the presentation, approached her and her team. The young lady told her that she felt comfortable coming to talk to her “because you look like me.” The young lady was a daughter of immigrants who felt she was not connecting with anyone at her school and didn't have anyone to talk to about her issues.

Soliana says she felt what she was learning in the Health Services Management program allowed her to establish trust with this student and steer her to some mental health resources. “The skills I learned through the program helped me be aware of what's going on around diversity and equity, and the needs of the particular population I’m serving, so I can help in the best way possible.” 

Soliana decided that while she appreciated the community aspect of her internship with Allina, it was the project management and strategic planning work that got her the most fired up. To that end, Soliana has accepted another position for summer 2023 as a product management intern with medical supply company Medline, in Chicago. 

“Being in health services, you can really make an impact for individuals. The scaffolding that health services provides is so critical to ensure that direct patient care is really strong and that it allows care providers to do their work effectively. That’s my overall goal. I want better health care for people.”

Soliana Ghidewon is the recipient of the following scholarships: CCAPS Collegiate Scholarship, CCAPS Larson Legacy Scholarship, and OBCED Supplier Diversity Scholarship (one-time funding, not ongoing).