smiling woman using a laptop

Virtual internship program helps students stay on track during COVID-19 closures


Amanda Goodman

Ask any college student or soon-to-be college student about internships and they’ll probably tell you something similar to what Dana Rasmussen had to say.

“I think internships are a unique way for students to gain real-world experience in a chosen field to grow their skills, make connections and really see if something is a good fit for their career goals.”

Rasmussen is a 20-year-old health entrepreneurship and innovation major in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation at ASU. Like many of her undergraduate peers, she was planning on doing an internship this summer. But, as the coronavirus reached pandemic levels, it became clear many traditional internships were not going to be happening, leaving Rasmussen and a lot of her peers scrambling.

Recognizing the need for an alternative to the quickly vanishing in-person internships, Clinical Professor Rick Hall, director of the HEALab and senior director of health innovation programs at Edson College, had an idea.

“We have great relationships with health-related businesses locally and around the country, some of whom have come through the HEALab or other ASU entrepreneurship programs, so why not tap that network to connect students with businesses in need to work on meaningful projects that would benefit everyone,” said Hall.

And so, the HEALab developed and launched the Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship in just a matter of weeks.

Hall said he knew there would be interest in the program but he wasn’t prepared for just how much interest: “Even though we knew there was a need, the demand was still surprising and the quality of applicants we got on both sides of this surpassed our expectations.” 

In total they had 90 students apply from 14 states and three countries. This included high school students and undergraduates. Rasmussen was one of them.

Edson College student Dana Rasmussen participates in the HEALab Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship

Health entrepreneurship and innovation major Dana Rasmussen interned with Securisyn Medical, a medical technology company.

“If this wasn't available, I would not have been able to participate in an internship this summer. I am so grateful that the HEALab team was able to put together such a well-planned virtual internship experience on such short notice,” Rasmussen said.

In all, 17 companies applied to participate, including Humabiologics.

Mohammad Albanna, the founder and CEO of Humabiologics, has a long-standing relationship with the university and says offering internships is one of the ways he can give back to the community, while also helping to develop local talent.

“When we provide internships to students in Arizona, not only do we empower and increase the pool of talent available for us as Arizona companies to leverage in the future, but also for other industries outside the state,” he explained.

During the program, Humabiologics hosted six students who worked in teams to conduct a thorough market analysis on products and explore opportunities of untapped markets.

Albanna described the experience of working with the students as fantastic and said they were happy with “the amount of time and dedication these students put into these projects and the outcomes we got, which will help in our future business decisions.”

This internship program was not for credit, serving strictly for experience, resume-building and networking. The HEALab team coordinated a two-week structured internship, pairing students with businesses who then had them work on specific projects. From there, it was up to the participants to determine what happened next. 

Albanna says they hired an intern from the program due to “his impressive quality of work and ability and speed in learning new things.”

Rasmussen worked with Securisyn Medical, a medical technology company and past participant in the Mayo Clinic and ASU MedTech Accelerator, for her internship. The project she was part of revolved around future product development research, an area that was new to her. Even so, she was able to pick it up quickly, impressing herself and the team at Securisyn who wanted to continue the relationship.

“It is because of this opportunity that I have been able to intern directly with Securisyn for the whole summer, growing my skills and network,” she said.

Students participate in the HEALab Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship Program

Students participate in the HEALab Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship program in May.

While the Healthcare Innovation Virtual Internship started out as an alternative option, Hall confirms that their early success has them considering doing this again.

“We know that we can do this now and do it well," he said. "So if we can fulfill a need by creating new and interesting opportunities for students around the globe to gain real-world experience with health care businesses in a virtual environment, I think that’s worth seriously looking into.”

About the HEALab

In partnership with ASU’s E+I programs, the development of Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation's Health Entrepreneurship Accelerator Lab is the first-ever accelerator for students, faculty and the community at ASU to launch initiatives that focus entirely on health and health care solutions. Through outreach, programming, networking, strategic partnerships and mentorship, the lab supports startup activities by connecting students to its own resources, the knowledge base of the expert faculty and the resources of the university and community.