Chang '17 expands career path in community health

Thanks to Carleton's CCCE office and the Career Center, Cynthia Chang '17 began to view a career in medicine differently.

Laura Theobald Benda Dec. 29, 2016

Cynthia Chang ’17 thought she had her career path all carved out. 

As an incoming student from West Covina, California, Chang knew she wanted to major in biology and go to medical school. It was a straight and clear line, starting with the classes she knew she’d take and the cancer research internship she’d already arranged.

But then things changed, becoming a little more “discomforting,” Chang says, as she started to see more options. Issues raised in her classes, perspectives from fellow students, events on campus, and most prominently, her involvement with the Center for Community and Civic Engagement raised questions, doubts, and alternatives.

Maybe she didn’t have her life so clearly planned out, after all.

“There are so many issues we learn about at Carleton, like racial issues and socioeconomic status, and how they play a role in your life—I had never thought about any of that,” she says.

She took another internship, this time halfway across the world in Ghana, working with a nonprofit organization that provided eye care to people without access to healthcare. “That’s when I learned a lot about what it means to provide health not just in the sense of going to a doctor, but in the greater sense of educating people on what it means to live healthy lives,” she said. Chang received funding from the Initiative for Service Internships in International Development (West Fund), which is managed by the Career Center,  to do the internship. 

Chang decided to try out a third internship, this time with a local organization focused on her new and growing interest in public health. Through the CCCE, she found HealthFinders, a local nonprofit offering assistance to people without health insurance. HealthFinders provides one of about 60 CCCE-related community engaged fellowships, which are similar to internships. Students explore career fields, develop job skills, and gain experience. They offer a deeper experience and career preparedness within the CCCE.

In her fellowship, Chang worked with people from different backgrounds and cultures and learned how to communicate with people who feel vulnerable. “I learned a lot about professionalism,” she says, “and how I need to interact with people effectively.”

“Now I’m looking at getting a master’s degree in public health,” she says. “This past year, after my internship, has been kind of discomforting because I suddenly had so many more options, but it’s nice to know that I find more enjoyment in thinking about making a difference in community health.”

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