Josh Taban’s CHOP Internship
Josh Taban was an intern for the CHOP Foundation, and when Arcus Education pivoted sharply toward the rapid production of webinars, Josh helped us manage the influx of video files we had to deal with! We couldn’t have done it without his able help. When his internship ended, Josh shared this reflection with us (edited for space considerations) and we wanted to share it with you, our learners and colleagues.
My CHOP Journey
My name is Josh and for the past year, I have had the amazing opportunity to intern for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation.
I first came across The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia while helping a family member volunteer. I remember vividly walking into the atrium looking up in bewilderment at the high ceilings and the hustle and bustle of CHOP on a weekday afternoon. Later, I applied for the Driving Study and the Bone Strength study. Through my participation in these studies, the one aspect that stuck with me the most was the tremendous passion all the staff had for their work. Everyone was so professional, knowledgeable, and were strongly in tune with the “why” of what they do. At that time, I had a lot of questions about my career journey and the staff was very open about theirs. It was in these first impressions I experienced CHOP’s ICARE (Integrity, Compassion, Accountability, Respect, and Excellence) values prominently featured across its halls, resonating through its walls.
I started volunteering in October 2019 on the WAWA cart and received an offer letter for the Annual Giving Intern position in November 2019. Volunteering for the WAWA volunteer center was the highlight of every week before COVID set in. Ask a CHOP family when their favorite part of the day is, and chances are they will say when the WAWA cart came to their room. It was quite special when I got to experience people’s faces light up when I offered them a hot beverage and gave them a chance to take a break without leaving their child’s room. As a bedside buddy, I got to interact with patients one on one. Being a beside buddy helped me to learn how to work with a diverse group of children and parents. As a Buddy and Cart volunteer, we were part of the tremendous team at CHOP whose focus is to enhance patient family care.
CHOP gave me many opportunities to grow with experience. On December 31, 2019, I began my internship with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Foundation, Annual Giving team. My team and the Foundation staff were always so willing and helpful and were personally rooting for my success along the way. I got to learn new skills, interact with other interns, and participate in a multitude of very interesting projects during my time there. I learned technical skills by interacting with all the tools we use in fundraising. Perhaps even more significant were the soft skills I learned, from communication to organization. I was honored to work with extremely intelligent and passionate people.
When the pandemic hit my colleagues and management continued to support my growth. I was allowed to stay on as a volunteer for the Foundation despite a hiring freeze and the economic effects of COVID. I was quickly assigned to the broader individual giving team to help in any way possible. I got to regularly meet my manager even when they did not have specific assignments for me. Throughout this time, I got to meet with various Foundation staff across a multitude of disciplines. While expressing my interest in data, I was connected to the Foundation’s prospect development team and I got a peek into the data side of fundraising and got to work on projects with them.
During the pandemic, I had more time to learn new skills. Data fuels almost everything CHOP does. I was introduced to the R Statistical language when I met a fellow student during the pandemic that was studying Computer Science and was assigned to create a machine learning model using R to model the pandemic. I was blown away by how powerful it was at analyzing and communicating data. I had just done well in a college statistics class, and I decided to give it a go. I was pleasantly surprised that there are learning opportunities and a community for R at CHOP. Following my discovery of this part of the hospital, I saw a need and offered to edit and post their lectures online for the team. I started to get more involved in the data education project through the Arcus/DBHi initiative. To learn R, I have been following the Arcus tutorials, reading R programming books, and working towards completing the Coursera Data Science Specialization.
I started my learning journey following the Coursera Course and its companion book “R Programming for Data Science” by the course instructor and author, Roger D. Peng. The book’s main advantage is that it follows the lessons of the Coursera course really well. The con to both the book and the course is that they assume you have prior coding experience. I felt there were many gaps in my knowledge when presented with a programming challenge to solve. I have since pivoted to “Hands-On Programming with R” by Garrett Grolemund. The book teaches a first-time coder how to think like a coder. This book serves the complete novice well. It focuses on getting the reader from step zero to having a solid foundation on how to speak the R language. Throughout the book, it has many easy to understand projects you can follow along in RStudio while reading. It gives you a sense of accomplishment as you progress throughout the book and you start to see the results. You gain the ability to start figuring out problems on your own because of its progressive structure. I have a lot to learn but have so far enjoyed learning to program for the first time. If you are learning R as a first coding language, I suggest watching this playlist https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLmDEaZ20fWqCypV7S-trCPtVefHk4e0bU from The Queensland University Library, completing Swirl exercises, finding the book that works best for you, and learning the Tidyverse and SQL early on. My skill set is still very much at a beginner’s level. With my college and internship commitments in mind, I continue to learn R. The part of data analysis and statistics I have the most affinity to is telling the story that data/statistics tell us and working to implement positive impactful change based on that. I am not someone who enjoys only sitting behind a desk and I may not be the best with numbers, but data is the language of the present and anyone can benefit from being data literate. R is a great place to start. It has an amazing community, bountiful resources, is purpose-built for data analysis, and a high skill ceiling.
It will be quite sad to leave CHOP as my internship has come to an end one year after I started there on December 31, 2019. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia left me with so many unbelievable experiences. My time there afforded me opportunities to acquire new skills, learn about myself, meet incredible people, and exposed me to a new field of work and industry. I am so grateful to all those whom I connected to along the way. I would return in a heartbeat if the opportunity arose.