Joel Pollack, 23, is on a mission to help people through what he calls “the most behind-the-scenes job in healthcare”: healthcare administration. The Alpharetta, Georgia, native who just graduated from VSU this December, has already spent months working in his degree field through a summer internship with Piedmont Healthcare at Piedmont Atlanta Hospital, one of the city’s landmark health institutions.
His days were full of watching lifesaving surgeries, coordinating meaningful outreach that impacted the community, and even helping TLC film a TV show right in the hospital!
His duties ranged widely — from analyzing patient data to handling physician and provider information — and he worked with a variety of professionals, interns, and staff members to promote patient care, hospital safety, and ethical business practices.
Hear what Pollack had to say about his internship and why he’s so passionate about healthcare:
Q: What were some highlights from the internship?
A: For one of my projects, I had the opportunity to organize a collection drive for City of Refuge, a social development mission in Atlanta. They were setting up a Nurse Aide Certification lab and needed a variety of medical equipment (stretchers, wheelchairs, exam tables, etc.) as well as some supplies (gloves, masks, gauze, bandages, surgical tape, etc). We were able to provide City of Refuge all their requested items and more! As an Eagle Scout and an aspiring healthcare administrator, it felt good to serve the community through more than providing medical treatment.
During another project, I worked for the Piedmont Healthcare Foundation to provide indigent women with free or low-cost breast cancer screenings and treatment in the Piedmont Fayette Hospital service area.
I also spent a considerable amount of time in the operating room. The OR takes safety very seriously, and so one of my projects included auditing the surgical process to ensure patient safety. Some of the most interesting surgeries I saw included brain surgery to remove a lymphatic node, vascular surgery to remove a blockage in the carotid artery (performed by the hospital’s CEO), and robotic gastrointestinal resection. These may seem gross, but they were one of the most interesting things to watch. You really get a sense of how important your health is when you see a surgery being performed in front of you.
I also got to take part in filming the show “Family by the Ton,” which is filmed at Piedmont and airs on TLC. I got to help the camera crew and the patients during the days it was filmed. Some of my jobs included running errands, serving as a dolly (I pushed a camera operator around), and assisting Piedmont’s PR team with privacy for all our patients, providers, and staff that did not need to be on camera.
Finally, I got to help the Piedmont PR team in making a patient’s day. I am a big fan of the soccer team Atlanta United, and Atlanta United Captain Michael Parkhurst and Midfielder Oliver Shannon surprised a patient who had undergone cardiothoracic surgery. It was great to see some of my favorites make the difference in a patient’s day.
Q: What were some of the biggest lessons you took away from the internship?
A: Piedmont’s promise is “to make a positive difference in every life we touch.” From this internship, I learned that while healthcare may be a changing industry, we always can provide a patient or their family member with great quality care. I think the biggest lesson I saw in action is “health + care = healthcare,” but with politics in the way (I am not talking Republicans and Democrats), it takes patients longer to get better.
Q: How did your VSU education prepare you for the internship?
A: VSU gave me foundational tools for working in healthcare. It is one of the only programs in Georgia with this devoted program to healthcare management. VSU’s courses prepared me for what I would see in a hospital.
Q: Why did you choose Healthcare Administration as a major?
A: In high school, I wanted to be a doctor. By the end of high school, I did not feel that strongly about medicine, but I still wanted to help people. I noticed VSU was just starting the healthcare administration program, and that’s why I came here.
Healthcare administration is the most behind-the-scenes job in healthcare. This group of business-minded health leaders have an understanding for providing top-quality care, keeping costs low, and creating access to care on all fronts. Having an understanding of medicine and health are one thing, but being able to use practical business skills are crucial to the future of healthcare.
Q: What do you plan to do after graduation?
A: I plan to work some and find opportunities within healthcare. I would love the opportunity to go back to Piedmont Healthcare. I plan to take graduate school exams and pursue a Master’s in Healthcare Administration.
Q: Talk a little bit about your VSU experience. Looking back on your time here, how has it been?
A: I will miss every moment at VSU. VSU was my first choice. I will miss the palm trees on our beautiful Front Lawn. The Blazer Spirit that runs in each of us. The willingness and closeness that our professors provide. I will miss Blazer game days and tailgating. I will miss the Valdosta-Lowndes community that supports VSU students, no matter where they originate from. I will miss the students who have a drive, a hunger, and a passion for what they do. Each of them (all 11,300+) will change the world. Valdosta State University will always feel like home to me. I am so proud that was I able to cross the graduation stage and shake President Carvajal’s hand.
Interested in learning more about Joel and his passion for Healthcare Administration? Be sure to check out his blog!