After interning under three mentors at NCI at Frederick, former WHK intern Nicole Pohida is currently preparing to complete her undergraduate nursing degree at the University of Maryland. The aspiring nurse practitioner is passionate about doing the detective work necessary to solve challenging medical riddles, and she credits her mentors for helping stimulate her already-budding interest in science, learn new skills, and pursue her goals.
From 2015–2017, Pohida interned in three separate departments: the Mouse Cancer Genetics Program with mentor Kimberly Klarmann, Ph.D.; the Office of Scientific Operations with mentor Marsha Nelson-Duncan; and Occupational Health Services (OHS) with mentor Sarah Hooper.
At OHS, she especially enjoyed shadowing the staff’s nurse practitioners during patient exams.
“I really loved learning the process and understanding the reason for each exam and what abnormal findings meant,” Pohida said. “That excitement from having that knowledge and being able to practice solving medical problems or ‘puzzles’ is one of the primary reasons I want to be a nurse practitioner.”
While with OHS, Pohida also recorded patients’ vitals, performed injections and phlebotomy, and worked alongside other interns to conduct health-promotion events and advertise healthy living and disease prevention to NCI at Frederick staff.
Pohida learned new skills with her other mentors, too. In Klarmann’s lab, she conducted gel electrophoresis of DNA from mouse tails to evaluate how differing primers affected the DNA strands, with the goal of finding primers that could eliminate potential cancer-causing genes. It was its own type of detective work, and Pohida commented that mastering the electrophoresis procedure was one of her biggest accomplishments as an intern.
During her internship with Nelson-Duncan, Pohida created scientific experiments and activities, which she and Nelson-Duncan took to local elementary and middle schools to teach students about science. Pohida enjoyed the community outreach, something that she also values both inside and outside of work as a volunteer with several medical organizations.
After completing her nursing degree, Pohida hopes to become a registered nurse in a women’s health unit, then attend graduate school for her doctorate in nursing practice. Her end goal is to practice women’s health and prenatal care and to volunteer in a women’s shelter.
“My time as a WHK intern definitely helped me determine my current trajectory,” she said. “I have all of my mentors and their donated time and resources to thank for the knowledge and experiences I now have.”