Clinical Practicum Highlight – New York City

From the Big Apple to the Marble City

Hannah Jahandarfard

(Center, front row)

From the moment I walked through the clear glass doors on the 28th floor of the Madison Avenue building, I knew it was a special place. I was greeted by a shimmering silver coffee table that spelled out “SMILE” along with dozens of friendly faces. The opportunity to intern at the global nonprofit organization, Smile Train, in New York City is an experience I will always treasure. If you don’t already know about this unique group, they provide 100% free surgery and care to individuals with cleft lip and palate who would otherwise not be able to afford it. They are also working towards providing comprehensive care to address the needs of patients after surgery such as follow-up care and speech therapy. Through their model, they promote high-quality, independent work while having funded over 1 million life-changing surgeries.

During my time at Smile Train, I got to help with numerous projects with the wonderful ladies on the Programs Team. Among the projects were learning about Smile Train’s patient and grant databases, inputting information from Final Grant Reports involving speech, orthodontics, and nutrition into their record systems, finding new articles about cleft lip and palate for their Patient Care Library on their website, updating public resources such as listings of cleft teams across America and the UK, and finally my favorite project which was helping with the development of a free speech app they are creating specifically for kids with clefts. There was always a plethora of work to do, but it was always so much fun. This was largely in part because of the incredible NYC staff. They welcomed me with open arms into their modest family and instilled in me a sense of confidence I didn’t know I had.

It wasn’t all work though. I got to explore the Big Apple too! I had an awesome time immersing myself in the staples like walking across the Brooklyn Bridge at sunset, eating “The World’s Best Cannoli’s!” in Little Italy, and seeing Phantom of the Opera on Broadway. But there’s more to being a temporary New Yorker than checking off all of the tourist attractions. I learned how to navigate the bustling streets and subway system while only getting lost a handful of times (a big accomplishment for a navigationally-challenged girl like me). I found the best New York pizza slice at Joe’s Pizza in Greenwich Village and ate at Madison Square Park’s Shake Shack more times than I’d like to admit. But most importantly, I opened up my heart to the fascinating citizens of NYC who have a knack for teaching others more about life in a 5-minute conversation than you ever knew possible.

It was an experience I’ll never forget. I learned a lot about the incredible work that goes into making a nonprofit organization not only succeed, but thrive. The employees at Smile Train have such a passion for the work that they do and it was an honor to be a part of their effort, even if only for a short while. And now, a year and a half later, I have been immensely blessed to be able to take these special lessons from Smile Train and utilize them at my new job, which is also a nonprofit organization – a children’s hospital in the Marble City of Tennessee. Daily I strive to use what I’ve learned to grow my passion for my community and job, provide comprehensive and thoughtful care to each individual, and to turn strangers into friends.

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