Grady Intern Diaries: Leigh Beeson

This is part of a series where we asked Grady College students to describe their internship experiences during the summer. To see pictures of our Grady students interning, please see our #GradyInternDiaries social media collection.

Other Grady Intern Diary interviews can be viewed here: Allie Bailey, Nylah Oliver, Molly Simon, Aubry Snow

Name: Leigh Beeson

Major: Grad student in Journalism and Mass Communication – Health and Medical Journalism

Title of Internship: Public Affairs Intern at the University of California, San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, California

Responsibilities: At UCSF, I interviewed scientists and clinicians on their innovative research, wrote and distributed press releases to major news outlets and the public, and pitched potential stories to members of the media.

The UCSF communications group that Beeson worked with this summer. Said Beeson: “we had just had dinner together in town and hiked up Twin Peaks, where it was incredibly windy and cold but still super fun.”

Grady College: What is the biggest challenge you faced during your internship?

Leigh Beeson: Interpreting some of the scientific studies I wrote releases on was sometimes difficult, but I had a fantastic group of people I worked for who were always happy to help. One of the most challenging things about this internship was that it was located across the country from my family and home base. Apart from the people who interviewed me for the internship, I knew no one in San Francisco, which was pretty terrifying for someone like me who has never been that far from home for that long a period of time. However, I didn’t even end up getting homesick because I enjoyed the people I worked with and what I was doing so much.

G.C.: What was the biggest surprise in your internship?

L.B.: I didn’t know how focused UCSF is on pitching stories to media. Pitching was something I’d never done before, and I was slightly nervous about it. With the guidance of my internship coordinator and one of the senior public information officers in UCSF’s public affairs department, Pete Farley, I pitched and placed a story by Ron Winslow in the Wall Street Journal, Chance Collaboration Yields an Advance in Cancer Treatment. When Ron contacted me asking about setting up photo appointments with the researchers, I literally did a happy dance. My first summer pitching and we got in the WSJ. I still can’t believe it.

G.C.: What is the most valuable lesson or skill you learned during your internship?

L.B.: I learned that I am capable of more than I thought I was. This internship took me way out of my comfort zone, in terms of not only physical location and away from my group of friends and family, but also in reporting on much more complicated research and science than I’m used to. I don’t have a science background, so it was a stretch for me at times. But pushing myself to figure the studies out so I could explain them to other “outsiders” like me really helped me grow my knowledge base and improve my storytelling.

G.C.: What advice would you give to a student looking for an internship?

L.B.: Just apply. I never thought I’d have an internship in California, and I never thought I’d actually get such a highly desired position at one of the top ranked health sciences universities in the country. When I found out I got it, I freaked a bit, but ultimately this internship was nothing short of life changing for me. It was something I needed to do, and if you are lucky enough to get the kind of internship I did, just go for it—even if it’s scary.

G.C.:  How did your internship help confirm your desired career path or make you re-evaluate what you want to do in the future?

L.B.: I thought I wanted to be an institution-based writer prior to this internship, due in part to my graduate assistantship in the UGA News Office. Working at UCSF and seeing how another university with more of a science and medical focus operate confirmed that this is the kind of position I want to be in. It also gave me an interest in biomedical research, which I’m not sure I would’ve discovered otherwise.

Date: September 9, 2016