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Two summer internships lead Dale Oommen to surprise findings

homepage-image-dale-oommen-THUMB-FinalDale Oommen ’17 is a biology major with a passion for research and exploration. “You can’t really know what you want to do unless you’ve had hands-on time experiencing it,” he says, a philosophy he put into practice this summer with engagements at very different organizations.

Oommen’s first commitment was shadowing doctors and volunteering as part of a pre-med program at St. Mary’s Medical Center. There he observed doctors, interacted with patients and studied the dynamics of effective doctor-patient relationships. He attended various physician lectures and used his face time with doctors to probe their motivations, work-life balance, and job satisfaction. “I wanted to try on the job and really see what it was like,” explains Oommen.

His second job was interning for a chief bioscientist at the Franklin Institute of Philadelphia, helping with outreach, program design and evaluation. On the job, he brainstormed ideas and tackled administrative duties for a new Think Music exhibit. He also evaluated the Your Brain exhibit, doing person-to-person research to understand what drove interaction and to make recommendations for optimizing visitor involvement.

“I was fortunate to pursue these two experiences simultaneously,” Oommen said. “The biggest surprise to me was how similar the opportunities wound up being.” At St. Mary’s, “the best doctors were good listeners and good responders. That’s what made for good relationships. You have to talk to people in a way that they’ll understand and accept.” Doing evaluations and asking for opinions on the museum floor, “you also need to communicate in a way people can relate to.” In both roles, he found that “it’s important to be receptive to what’s working and what’s not. You have to be humble and open to continually improving.”

His work yielded results for each organization, but perhaps Dale’s most valuable findings were about his own path.

“These two jobs gave me a better sense of where my interests and abilities thrive,” he said. Going into my senior year, it’s still difficult to pinpoint what I want to do, but science communications and teaching really resonate with me. I want to affect as many lives as possible in a positive way—and that may be how I do it.”

—Courtney Thompson