Updated: Aug 12
By: Wills Porter
A disappointing start
As I have mentioned a bit in the past, I am currently a graduate student at the University of Georgia. As a social work grad student, I am required to complete two internship stints in two separate community organizations in the Athens area (or within a 60-mile radius). When I originally chose to go to UGA, I did so because I knew I had the best chance of getting an internship placement in a hospital or medical environment. While this was my original reason for choosing the UGA program, I was extremely disappointed with my first internship site. The site supervisor was great. However, I was not being used as a social work intern. This first internship experience was so bad for me that I advocated for an imidate change. After completing the remainder of my internship requirement at a much better placement site, I finished the semester with no experience in the field specialty that I wanted to be in.
Time for a change
When this year started, I had been informed by my program that I would be placed in a medical setting. To me, this was exactly what I had asked for. The time for change had come and this was my chance. While I started completing the onboarding process, the COVID-19 situation became more of a challenge in Athens and I started considering if I needed to ask for an internship site change. According to UGA, I could still complete the internship as long as my internship site was following the CDC COVID protocols. Did I want to go into a medical environment with COID knowing full well that I may contract the virus from my internship site? Was the risk worth the reward of the experience? This is what I had come to UGA to do. Towards the end of the break, I had a decision to make. Would I stick it through or ask for a change while I could?
As it turned out, I decided to appeal my internship site placement to UGA. Why did I do this? I had come to UGA for a medical internship experience that I had just been given. Was it really worth appealing? What if my new site was not good and was as bad as my first internship placement? In the mix of all these questions, the most important question to me was whether I needed to be my own best advocate and act while I still had control of the situation. As I usually do, I sought the input from trusted friends and even my transplant care team. Ultimately, it was my decision to make. After much consideration, I decided to appeal my site placement. To me, it was not worth sacrificing my current health and wellbeing just to gain experience in the medical setting. I have practically been in the hospital all my life. Whether it be for standard transplant clinic appointments or major illnesses, I am extremely comfortable in the hospital environment. Did I really need medical experience? To me the answer was clear… be your own best advocate and advocate for what you need. I did just that and successfully appealed my internship site placement. By the time everything was finalized it was the final week of break before classes stared again. Where would I be? I did not know. All I knew was that I had done the right thing. A new opportunity
With my internship site successfully appealed, I was informed that I would be working with Columbia Residential. Columbia Residential is a low and mixed-income housing development corporation with locations in Georgia, Florida, Louisiana and Texas. My assignment was to the Georgia sites. My main supervisor was based in the Atlanta location and my secondary site supervisor was in Athens. After the initial required interview, I had a meeting with my Atlanta supervisor to discuss the expectations for my internship and what I wanted to get out of the experience. On that first Friday we met over zoom, I had no idea what my Atlanta supervisor was about to tell me. I had no idea that they were going to give me the keys to do something I had always dreamed of doing.
“What are you passionate about?” The answer to this question was simple, organ donation and transplantation. “What do you see as the most important challenge in the field that you can address with your internship project”. This answer was also an easy answer, community education and awareness. After telling my supervisor this, she then said she wanted me to do something that could potentially be big. “How would you like to design a community awareness campaign about organ transplant and donation?” I only had one word in response... absolutely!
My community awareness campaign just started out as an idea. I drafted up some topics and began considering who I wanted to partner with to make the project happen. After a first draft of my program, I decided to shift the focus and make the program about kidney health and organ/tissue donation awareness. Then, one day, I made the program name and logo. Just like that, Operation Impact was born. My goal was three-fold. I wanted to inform, inspire and empower. I wanted to inform individuals and communities by sharing organ donation facts. I wanted to inspire individuals to register as organ/tissue donors and even encourage their family members to also register. Finally, I wanted to empower individuals and communes to make positive kidney health decisions and make educated decisions about organ/tissue donation. In short that was my plan. After drafting the program plan, I landed the support of my mentor, Edward (Mr. YNOTT) Drake and the YNOTT Foundation. From here, I expanded and got the support from LifeLink of Georgia. As I write this post, I have now secured even more community partners and I an extremely excited about implementing this project as we all work to make an impact.