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Hello! My name is Kaathya Kashyap and I am a senior from Apex, NC studying neuroscience with minors in chemistry and medical anthropology. As a Gil intern, I have been fortunate enough to receive valuable skills in professional development as well as in-depth exposure to clinical populations.

Following graduation, I plan to attend medical school, where I hope to pursue a career in pediatric psychiatry. During my time at UNC, I became an undergraduate research assistant in the Short Trauma and Anxiety Research (STAR) lab at the Institute for Trauma Recovery. I work with Dr. Nicole Short to study the transdiagnostic risk factors associated with PTSD and anxiety-related disorders following sexual assault. I am very grateful for Dr. Short’s guidance as I refined my research skills through completing a Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship (SURF). My project involved analyzing statistical associations between physical injury and the chronic pain development after sexual assault. My time at the STAR lab has taught me that as a future physician, I am very interested in providing trauma-informed care. I also interned at the National Institutes for Mental Health this past summer to explore behavioral and affective neuroscience.

My interest in pediatric populations led me to become a Registered Behavior Technician (RBT) for children with autism ages 2-11 years. I assist Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) in implementing therapeutic intervention to improve functional communication for those with ASD. I find this role extremely fulfilling as I am able to work one-on-one with clients and track their progress over time.

When I received the Gil Internship, I was very interested in interacting with a clinical population and forming more relationships with patients. I was matched with Threshold Clubhouse, a rehabilitation center for adults with severe mental illness, usually presenting as schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, etc. Threshold closely follows a community-based approach to rehabilitation, in which members support each other by assisting in various tasks around the facility, such as cooking meals and planting in the community garden. Threshold actively works to improve a member’s quality of life and assist them in their rehabilitation process, providing them with the tools to be agents of their own recovery.

As an intern, I receive my greatest fulfillment from working directly with members and supporting them on the tasks they are performing, whether it is cooking or planning the next holiday events. I have been able to build meaningful connections and relationships, and I find this extremely rewarding. I value this aspect of my internship because it allows me to see the ways in which symptoms of mental illness manifest in a very realistic manner. The scope of my understanding of severe mental illness now extends beyond a strict clinical gaze, and I am able to gain a greater appreciation for who an individual is than just their diagnosis. Aside from this, I am also working on implementing a survey amongst members to assess the efficacy of Threshold’s community-based, rehabilitative model. I helped operationalize certain survey questions and then assisted members one-on-one in the case they had poor vision or literacy while answering. The purpose of this project is to provide Threshold with critical feedback on which aspects of their model are working as well as areas for improvement. Other exciting roles I have adopted during my internship are helping members get registered to vote and planning voting education events.

I am extremely grateful for the experience I have gained, as well as the passionate mentorship I have received from Ali Swiller, the Associate Director of Threshold Clubhouse. She has taught me so much about effectively interacting with a rehabilitating population. She also shed some light on her advocacy work in mental health policy. As an aspiring physician, I find my deeper understanding of living with mental illness and the surrounding circumstances very beneficial in providing holistic and well-informed care. I would also like to thank Emily Dolegowski and Dr. Steven Buzinski for giving me the opportunity to learn more about mental illness and supporting my growth in professional development.


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