UCLA School of Public Health Field Studies Program

Community Health Sciences

Field Placement: West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital
Los Angeles, CA
Paul West
Student Name: Dahianna Lopez
Year: 2005

This past summer I had the most amazing experience as a graduate student. I was an intern at the West Los Angeles Veterans Administration Hospital, the largest hospital in the VA network nationwide. My job was to help establish a patient education center in the main lobby of the hospital. The center is a place where patients can obtain free health information in the form of pamphlets, brochures, health videos, online resources, 3-D models, individual counseling, and classes taught by certified clinicians. I started off with an empty room. My job was to network with members of different departments at the VA, such as engineering, medical media, primary care, housekeeping, nursing, psychiatry, and others in order to establish the center. The internship was very hands on and varied. Sometimes I’d dress in jeans and a sweatshirt and get my hands dirty by unpacking boxes and stocking the shelves. Other times, I came in with heels and a suit because I had presentations to give to hospital executives and doctors about the importance of health education and about the opening of the new center. Every day was a different day and the job never seemed monotonous. In 12 weeks, the center went from empty room to a beautiful room with lots of well-organized health information. We had a grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremony in September and the CEO of the hospital as well as a prisoner of war cut the ribbon. The work atmosphere at the VA is very pleasant. People are always willing to help and there is a great emphasis on customer service. The best part of my internship was the boss I had: Paul West. He is the patient education coordinator for all of the VA hospitals and clinics in the Greater LA area. He is an innovative manager in that he is not domineering and encourages one to grow with the job. He doesn’t have a mental mold of what a good worker is supposed to be. Instead, he focuses on one’s qualities and how they can help create a win/win situation. My internship was unique because I was given the opportunity to open a center. Other interns under Paul West usually help run a center that has already been established. There is much to learn in that area as well.


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