In The News Internship: My Summer in the Media Relations Department

Northwestern Medicine
For Students August 02, 2012

Lauren Wysock an intern at Northwestern MedicineAs an academic medical center, Northwestern Memorial Hospital serves as the primary teaching hospital for Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. Future doctors learn from our experienced faculty and get hands on clinical experience with some of the country’s top physicians in their chosen specialty. In an effort to contribute to Northwestern Memorial’s commitment to medical education, the media relations department offers an internship program to provide practical experience to college students and recent graduates interested in pursuing careers in healthcare public relations. This summer, we hosted three interns from universities across the country, each with a unique academic background and professional interests. The media relations interns spent the summer staffing media shoots, writing press releases and blogs, assisting with social media analytics and shadowing staff members as they went about their daily work.

Lauren Wysocki, a senior at Albion College*, talks about her experience as a media relations intern at Northwestern Memorial:

When visiting Northwestern Memorial Hospital, a patient will meet doctors, nurses, technicians and other health professionals. What many patients do not realize is that down the street there is a separate building full of people working to make Northwestern Memorial a nationally ranked hospital.  No, it’s not a place for the nurses and doctors relax and recharge after a long shift, nor the research labs synthesizing the newest cures, but an office building filled with people of all different academic degrees and non-medical jobs – accountants, marketing analysts, event planners and even a team dedicated to gathering and disseminating news. This isn’t reporters working on the evening news, but this is the group of public relations professionals, some former journalists themselves, who comprise the media relations team for Northwestern Memorial Hospital.

Many people wonder what a media relations department does at a hospital; even I did before I started my internship this summer. The team serves as the hospital’s voice to the media and community. When newspapers quote Northwestern Memorial doctors in articles, or a morning show interviews a dietician, the media relations department facilitates the process and relationship between the parties. They also work to release news about what the physicians and hospital are doing to advance medicine and clinical research, better the community, and healthy advice from Northwestern Memorial experts.

The media relations department office does not look like the CNN newsroom, but working in news does make an exciting work environment. I started this summer by compiling the latest health news, helping with projects within the team, and interviewing doctors on seasonal and other popular health topics. Every day presented new challenges and headlines like researching about common causes of back pain to learning the latest treatments and how they really work.  The always changing atmosphere makes each day unique and fun, but one afternoon I realized the important role the media relations team plays between the community and the hospital.

The day started out normal as I went to work researching ways to help protect against Chicago’s latest summer heat wave, but then I was invited to help a senior associate with a video shoot. I had been on shoots before, but this one was different. A nonprofit organization needed to film a doctors, patients, and family members for a video that would promote awareness about the disease. Arriving to the shoot early, I witnessed a small conference room turn into a Hollywood studio. The transformation was amazing, and I even helped test the equipment and facilitate paper work. Watching the camera man shoot reel after reel, I realized there was something much cooler than the HD video lenses and high tech lighting.  I just helped with a few tasks, but I was a part of making a difference and rallying support for a cure. The video which encouraged patients to seek treatment and donations for research and support groups would be seen by thousands of eyes. Filming this video became much more than a job; I realized how I helped complete the relationship from hospital to community, and how that relationship can even contribute to the health of others.  

Sitting in office building blocks away from the hospital, the media relations department makes an enormous impact on the healthcare community. Whether giving tips on how to reduce back pain, releasing exciting news on medical breakthroughs, or patient stories that inspire hope in us all, the Northwestern Memorial Hospital media relations team works to connect the community and even help students, like me, learn the power of news.

To learn more about the internship program in Northwestern Memorial’s media relations department, call 312.926.5900 or email memccann@nmh.org.

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