FDU student ‘navigating’ a future in medicine
This is the final story in a series about Fairleigh Dickinson University students and the summer opportunities they're taking advantage of.
By Kenna Caprio
As a child, junior Michael Komstead worried that “doctors and nurses wanted to hurt me” — an understandable reaction, perhaps, for a youngster being treated for leukemia.
Instead of carrying that fear with him, however, Komstead realized his interest in medicine, deciding to pursue a career in oncology.
This summer the 19-year-old clinical laboratory science major is interning at the American Cancer Society’s Hackensack office as a patient navigator.
The job posting, which Komstead found on the Career Development job board, didn’t list any qualifications or requirements, so he called the American Cancer Society to find out more. Instead of hearing a generic “please send in your resume and cover letter for consideration,” he was told to come in and bring his resume. “I interviewed and they gave it to me right there,” he says.
Fairleigh Dickinson University students and alumni can find more than just job and internship postings through the Career Development Center located on the Metropolitan campus.
Students and alumni alike can rely on guidance and advice from the Career Development Centers on both campuses. Members of the Metro Career Development team include: (from left) Christine Vitale, Lynn Lechner, Cathy Love, Theresa O’Neill and Nayana Vaidya.
“We try to cater and customize our service to what the students are looking for,” says career counselor Nayana Vaidya.
In fact, it’s often advice from career counselors that benefits students the most.
“If students are coming in looking for a job rather than internship, we try to talk to them about getting a part-time job in their field rather than just any job,” says Cathy Love, director of career development.
Komstead, however, didn’t need any convincing —his part-time lifeguarding job is definitely related to the medical field. Hopefully, though he won’t have to put his CPR and AED training to use.
The Saddlebrook, N.J. resident lifeguards for American Pool, rotating to cover a different pool in Bergen County each weekend.
He’s also working in undergraduate admissions at the University. “It’ll be about 20-25 hours a week in admissions and lifeguarding is Saturdays and Sundays for 20 hours,” he adds. On Fridays, he’s at the American Cancer Society.
As a patient navigator, Komstead is responsible for gathering contact information from patients arriving for chemotherapy treatments.
The email addresses and phone numbers are used to provide cancer patients with details on makeup tips, wig programs, transportation aid and financial support.
Before interacting with patients, patient navigators spend at least a month in training. The interns shadow supervisors and then are shadowed themselves before officially becoming a navigator.
“Generally, patients come in for treatment, I hold a conversation with them and get their information,” he says. “We’re taught to stay neutral, get their information, make them feel okay and get out. We keep the emotional attachment to a point where we can handle it.”
Komstead says he can see how it might be hard for some volunteers, the ones without “cancer experience,” to handle the emotional complexities of the position. His personal understanding of the illness is definitely coming in handy, he says."Most people are grateful (for the advice) and when we start talking and they realize I'm a survivor, they tell me all kinds of stories. It's kind of an icebreaker," he says.