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Jennifer Strater '10
Jennifer Strater '10

Jennifer Strater '10 Is Tech Intern at Community Medical Center

By Allison Eck '12
Posted July 8, 2009
Tags 2009
"The field of health care is constantly changing, as are the volunteers," says Jennifer Strater '10. Part of her job as an intern this summer is policing these changes and making sure that employees at the Kershaw County Community Medical Center are adapting to technological advancements. Strater is a computer science major with an undying interest in health care, so the opportunity, which placed her in the midst of modern computer technology, is an ideal blend of the two fields. 

The Community Medical Clinic of Kershaw County is a non-profit charitable organization located in Camden, S.C., that provides health care to uninsured and underprivileged members of the community. To benefit from its services, families must not have any form of insurance (Medicare, Medicaid, or private insurance) and their income must be about 150 percent below poverty level. This is not infrequent – Kershaw Country has seen a drastic increase in unemployment rates within the past year. Not only is it difficult to account for all of their patients, but because most of the area is agrarian, the clinic must accommodate many migrants workers who do not speak English. The clinic is dependent on consistent donor support and volunteers to stay afloat. 

As the technology intern, Strater has a number of responsibilities that range from Facebook-ing to teaching. She is principally in charge of maintaining a small network of computers with the help of a few local computer technicians. She routinely upgrades operating systems, keeps software updated, and carries out other miscellaneous tasks. 

Last semester, she took a class on databases with Professor of Computer Science Richard Decker. She has found that much of what she learned has translated into real life. She works on the database software often, and is introducing three new programs: encounter forms, LabRetriever, and ReminderPro. LabRetriever allows patients to listen to a recording of their lab results outside of the clinic's hours, and ReminderPro is a phone system that calls patients two business days before their scheduled time. Strater says that these programs have given the clinic greater credibility. 

As many companies face rigorous competition in a sagging economy, they are turning to social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter. The Kershaw County Clinic is no different, and it is partly Strater's job to keep donors, supporters, and volunteers more informed through these social networking sites. It is not uncommon to see an intern doing this type of work because many companies feel that younger people are better equipped with knowledge of how the cyber world functions. 

One of the most important elements of her internship is education.
"Many of the older volunteers have trouble with computers and tasks such as [Microsoft] Office products get them upset and flustered," Strater noted. The instruction sheets that she writes for the volunteers help them get through what would have been a frustrating day. Because many of the workers only come in a few hours per week, Strater must also advise them of new policies and procedures. 

She does not get paid for her work, however. Strater needed to find a source of money from which she could support herself while taking on the internship, so she applied for the Joseph F. Anderson Internship Fund. Through the stipend she received, she was able to accept the summer opportunity. The Fund, established in memory and recognition of Mr. Anderson's commitment to Hamilton College, covers the cost of living for students who have secured a not-for-profit internship.
Strater's internship is a deviation from the norm in that she is looking at how her peers' diligent programming eventually becomes relevant to the medical industry. 

One example of medical software is the switch to electronic medical records. In this system, all of the free health clinics in a state would be able to share information. If a patient moves to another region of the state, a doctor at another clinic can access the patient's record online. Strater began her first year at Hamilton as a pre-med student, so her interest in medical software is fitting. 

"Working on this software is something I would really like to go into," she said. "With my contacts this summer, it's certainly a possibility."

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