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Hello! My name is Claire Staresinic, and I’m a junior from Pittsburgh, PA studying psychology and German with a minor in biology. My big dream is to make it to medical school and become a psychiatrist. I’ve always loved science, but I love people even more, so working in a psychology-related health field is the perfect fit.  I’m involved in many health-related organizations on campus like the Mental Health Committee of student government and the pre-health honor society. I recently joined the Elston-Lafata lab at Eshelman School of Pharmacy where we are investigating doctor-patient communication for cancer patients also experiencing mental illness.

My Gil Internship is at Cognitive Psychiatry of Chapel Hill, a private psychiatric practice near the university. This placement was perfect for me because I wanted a clinically-oriented experience as well as a way to better understand the behind-the-scenes goings-on in healthcare. When most of us think about being a healthcare provider, we don’t imagine making phone calls, sorting patient information, or carefully managing financial records. However, this is a large part of what I do at CPCH! It doesn’t sound glamorous, but I’ve realized how incredibly important these tasks are to keep a practice running. Some practices are fortunate enough to have permanent receptionists and staff, but many doctors must tackle finances, logistics, and direct patient care all on their own. Not only do I contribute in this sense, but my face is the first one patients see when they walk in, and I have the responsibility to take care of the logistic and financial details, so they can focus on getting well.

In addition to managing the front desk, I have the opportunity to meet one on one with the psychiatrists at CPCH to learn more about my hopefully future profession. I also spend one day a week at Greenbrook Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) center where I will learn to operate the TMS devices, which are used to treat patients with severe depression. These are the days I spend the most time with my mentor, Dr. Andrea Hernandez, one of the psychiatrists at CPCH. Dr. Hernandez has allowed me to join her during pre-TMS and post-TMS check-ins with patients which has shown me the beneficial effects of mental health care as well as the anxieties many patients face knowing that mental health can be difficult to maintain. Spending time with these patients has inspired me to develop an independent project looking at chronic pain and depression. It’s still in the works, but it will hopefully involve patient interviews and surveys!

Being at CPCH has dramatically expanded my view on the healthcare industry. Gaining insight into how insurance works, how hectic running a practice can be, and, most importantly, how important mental care is has boosted my confidence in following the path I’m on. I realize I have much more to learn, but this internship has been a phenomenal start. I am exceptionally grateful for this opportunity, and it’s a pleasure to represent both an impressive provider like CPCH and a program as incredible as the Karen M. Gil program.

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