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On June 21. 2011, one of the hottest days of the summer, Dana-Farber staff, patients, and summer interns had the opportunity to meet a pretty cool visitor: Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick.
Patrick arrived at Dana-Farber at approximately 10:30 am and toured the Longwood campus with Dana-Farber President Edward J. Benz Jr., MD, and other Institute leaders. He visited exam and infusion areas in the Yawkey Center for Cancer Care, including the Stoneman Healing Garden, and then crossed over the PMC Bridge to the Blum Pediatric Resource Room.
At each stop he took time to shake hands and speak with clinical and support staff, and he spent several minutes hanging out with two young patients in the Blum Resource Room.
The governor's visit ended back in the Yawkey Center, where he met with Boston-area students and their Dana-Farber supervisors, who are taking part in the Office of Workforce Development's Summer Jobs Student Training Program.
When Candace Burns Johnson, director of Workplace Development, mentioned that a few students wanted to share their reflections on working here, Patrick insisted that all of the 20-some teenagers introduce themselves individually and tell him where they were going to high school or college.
"It was great being able to visit Dana-Farber, first of all because of the extraordinarily important work that they do, and how well they do it, and also the fact that they are reaching out to young people across the city and the region to encourage employment opportunities in preparation for their futures," Patrick stated after his tour.
"The program I visited today and the people I've gotten the chance to meet are really an inspiration. They have come from all over the city, and in many cases are in their second internship with Dana-Farber. There are folks who have graduated from the program and gone on to jobs here. That's exactly what we want — and that's exactly what the community needs."
During their session together, Patrick asked the students how many of them planned on eventually working in the medical field. About half raised their hands, including Shelby Jean-Michel, a recent graduate of John D. O'Bryant School of Mathematics and Science in Roxbury who is working in Neuro-Oncology and Genitourinary Oncology before starting at UMass Lowell in the fall.
"I want very much to be a doctor," Jean-Michel told the governor, "and here I was given the chance to follow doctors around and watch their interactions with patients. It's a great opportunity to get my feet wet."
In addition to telling Patrick how proud she was of the 60 students interning at Dana-Farber through the program, Burns-Johnson made sure to thank the staff supervisors, who spend months and even years guiding them. "We couldn't do this without them," she said. "They start out as teachers, and over time they become mentors to these kids."
Perhaps the morning's most poignant moment came when the governor asked the students what they were most surprised and pleased about in their internships.
For Karen Morales, a junior-to-be at Fenway High, whose sister Katherine (also a veteran of the Dana-Farber summer program) is about to start a full-time job here, it is the smiles she so often sees on the faces of young patients in the Jimmy Fund Clinic.
"It feels like the happiest place in the world," said Morales, who interns in the Pediatric Blum Resource Room "That motivates you to do anything you can to help find cures."
For the governor, who is trying to keep Boston's unemployment rate below the national average and spur jobs in the private sector, that's just what he wanted to hear.