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MUSC internship makes students think like entrepreneurs

Instructor Sachin Patel (center) works with Joshua Goodwin and Michelle Frasier in the MUSC Medical Apps Internship program.
By Allyson Bird
Office of Development and Alumni Affairs

Sachin Patel asked his eight students a question at the end of their programming internship: "Who was your best friend?"

Without pausing or cracking a smile, they replied in unison: “Google.”
For two months the students in the MUSC Medical Apps Internship program at the College of Nursing learned how to develop and market mobile phone applications that would help doctors and patients manage their health care.

They transformed from high school and college students to CEOs, chief financial officers and company presidents. They developed mobile phone apps based on ideas conceived by MUSC researchers: one for young women to track their workouts, another app that reminds patients to take their medication and a third that tracks a patient’s medical history and delivers the information to physicians. 

Jennifer Jackson came to the program with experience. She sits at the top of her class at Voorhees College and already owns a recording studio. 

“I was pretty confident coming in here, but when Sachin told us what to do the first day, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh,’” Jackson said. “He threw us to the wolves, but I appreciate it and now have a better understanding of the direction I want to go.”

Sachin Patel heads up the Technology Applications Center for Healthful Lifestyles System, an MUSC program that uses technology to improve health care. He spent an hour each day with the students, many of whom never had worked a 9-to-5 shift before this program. Patel said he gave them just enough knowledge to get to the next steps -- if they used Google and YouTube tutorials to help along the way.

 “Everyone’s getting on Sachin,” said Christian White, a 16-year-old rising senior at the Governor’s School. “But, for real, he’s a pretty dope guy.”

“I guess that’s good,” Patel said.

Gifts from corporate and individual donors, including AT&T, helped make the program possible. Pamela Lackey, AT&T’s president for South Carolina, encouraged the students to stay in touch as they head to the working world.

“This kind of program represents the type of transformation that we need in the public education system in South Carolina,” Lackey said. “That is, students are solving real-world problems.”

Adaya Sturkey, a rising senior at the South Carolina Governor’s School, served as CEO on her project, the medical history tracker, after realizing that she struggled with the programming side of the job.

“The biggest thing I took away was that if you don’t know how to do something, hire someone who does,” Sturkey said. “That was really hard for me, because I like being the smartest person in the room. But I think I speak for everyone when I say that we’re taking home friendships as well.”

The internship program grew from collaboration between former MUSC President Dr. Ray Greenberg and Governor’s School President Dr. Murray Brockman.

“We wanted to promote more minorities going into tech fields,” Greenberg said. “Charleston could become a national, if not international center for students to develop their own companies.”

Greenberg and Brockman left the eight selected students in the care of Patel and Tom Finnegan, a biotechnology entrepreneur and investor who leads MUSC’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Finnegan said several students barely spoke for the first few weeks but “left thinking like business people,” with an understanding of leadership, marketing and competition research.

Looking to the group at a graduation reception, he reminded them of another lesson. “When you’re successful, you do what?” Finnegan asked.

In unison, they responded: “You give back.”

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