“I Just Want to Help People”: Interning at a Clinic for Underserved Residents Inspires Devanshi Kataria ’24

“I Just Want to Help People”: Interning at a Clinic for Underserved Residents Inspires Devanshi Kataria ’24

Academics, Internships, Sciences, Testimonials

March 22, 2024

“I Just Want to Help People”: Interning at a Clinic for Underserved Residents Inspires Devanshi Kataria ’24 Devanshi Kataria '24

Growing up in Northern Virginia, Devanshi Kataria ’24 attended a high school where socioeconomic diversity was prevalent. “It was a really interesting dynamic for me as a student from the middle class,” she recalls. “You had some friends who were wealthy and others who were poor.”

Kataria was particularly struck by the fact that regardless of one’s economic standing, no group was immune from physical or mental health problems. “I decided I was going to be someone who helps people, especially those struggling with finding affordable physical and mental health care.”

Ultimately choosing Hollins as her college destination (“I always wanted to go to an all-girls school with a great science department.”), Kataria arrived for her first year with the intention of pursuing a pre-med track. But she says she “fell in love” with the field of psychology and decided to make it her major after taking an introductory course as a sophomore.

Kataria explains that psychology classes at Hollins have resonated with her because so many of the issues discussed reminded her of the challenges that have been faced by many of her friends and family. “You’d like to help. But you can’t help without knowing what to do.” She praises the psychology department, particularly her advisor, Associate Professor of Psychology Richard Michalski (“He’s just a really amazing guy. I love his sense of humor.”) and Professor of Psychology Bonnie Bowers (“I love how bright and happy she is. She makes sure everyone understands the subject matter and her classes are super interesting.”).

During her senior year, Kataria has made augmenting her classroom work with experiential learning a priority. For the January 2024 Short Term, she was selected from eight student applicants from Hollins for an internship with Roanoke’s Bradley Free Clinic, which partners with professional volunteers to provide comprehensive health care services to area residents who are without insurance or are covered by Medicaid.

“I worked with the entire behavioral health team,” she says. “I started by familiarizing myself with their data system and identifying patterns. After the first few days I began doing mental health intakes and asking patients questions to get a better idea of how they were doing that particular day. My goal was to help them feel safe.”

Kataria also assisted the clinic’s pharmacy staff with orders and administrative paperwork, and at the end of her internship she shadowed a couple of counselors to observe firsthand how they engage in patient care. The entire experience from start to finish, she says, helped her dramatically improve her own communication skills. “I got comfortable with talking to people and patients specifically in a professional environment.”

Interning at Bradley Free Clinic has solidified in Kataria’s mind her desire to “work with marginalized communities and people in poverty. In the real world, that can be daunting. But I still want to do it. I may be just one person, but I’m helping another person, and that can make all the difference in the world.”

Jeffrey White, director of Career and Life Design at Hollins, praises Kataria for her resourcefulness this academic year. “One of more amazing joys of working with Hollins students in the career space is their transformation through experience. I first met Devanshi in September at a résumé hackathon I facilitated and again a couple weeks later at the Internship and Early Career Expo that we co-sponsored with the Roanoke Regional Partnership. At that time, she was just beginning to craft her résumé. By the time she finished her materials for the Signature internship at Bradley and later when she presented her experience at the Experiential Learning Showcase at Leading EDJ, her presentation skills and confidence had grown exponentially.”

Kataria’s future plans include graduate school, but she’s also keeping her options open as far getting more hands-on experience in her discipline. “I was invited back to Bradley Free Clinic for this summer, so I might be there again. It’s a great place to work. There are also potential opportunities at clinics near where my parents live, and perhaps even at my old high school.”

As a developmental psychologist, Kataria wants to focus on providing talk therapy to adolescents as well as young adults in their early 20s. Her aspirations come not only from her high school experience and her Bradley Free Clinic internship, but also from the camaraderie and perseverance of her fellow students in Hollins’ class of 2024.

“Starting our college careers during the pandemic was tough, but I am really proud of our class and how it pushed through. I want to encourage future classes to stick it out no matter what happens. Going to class, making friends, and working with your professors is worth it. Hollins is worth it.”