Summer Internship Leads to Steps of Capitol Hill

alt text
Alumnus Nehal Gheewala with U.S. Senator Bill Nelson (D-FL)

Spotlight on Nehal Gheewala

For Nehal Gheewala, a summer internship in Washington, D.C., was a chance to learn the ropes on Capitol Hill while connecting his classroom experience to events in the national spotlight.
As a biology major in the Dual Admission Program at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences, he arrived in Washington in July 2009 for a six-week internship at the office of Mel Martinez, the former U.S. senator from Florida.

Gheewala, who graduated from the college in May 2009, plans to become a doctor of osteopathic medicine. The internship provided him with relevant professional experience that put his education into practice and developed his interest in health-care policy. During that time, he met with lawmakers, witnessed the health-care debate in full swing on Capitol Hill, and attended historical events such as the confirmation hearing of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

"We did pretty much everything an entry-level employee would do," said Gheewala, who besides working for Martinez, met U.S. Senator Bill Nelson of Florida and U.S. Senator Tom Coburn, a physician from Oklahoma.

Nehal and Senator Martinez
Nehal Gheewala with former U.S. Senator
Mel Martinez (R-FL)
"I got to listen in and learn how health-care policy affects Floridians. I learned quite a bit about how people are affected by our current health-care legislation and how they could be affected by proposed legislation."

Deanne Roopnarine, D.P.M., assistant professor in the college's Division of Math, Science, and Technology, taught Gheewala in Anatomy and Physiology II courses. "Nehal's interests are varied. He was very interested in the legislative process and its impact on the medical field, his choice of future profession," she said.

Gheewala, who grew up in the Tampa Bay area, became interested in a career in medicine while he was a high-school biology student doing volunteer work at a hospital. There, he was able to shadow physicians and get a firsthand view of their day-to-day challenges.

As an undergraduate at Nova Southeastern University, he completed his bachelor's degree in three years and engaged in campus life. He served as president of the Pre-Medical Society and as president and founding member of the NSU chapter of the Pre-Student Osteopathic Medical Association.

Working under the supervision of Mark Jaffe, D.P.M., associate professor in the college's Division of Math, Science, and Technology, Gheewala volunteered his time to participate in community outreach health fairs and events such as A Day for Children, which draws thousands of families and children to NSU's main campus. He also participated in a suturing clinic organized by Jaffe. By his senior year, Gheewala was mentoring other students.

Interns and Senator Martinez
Interns with former U.S. Senator Mel Martinez

"I found him to be a good leader," Jaffe said. "He brought a lot of energy and passion into the [pre-medical] club. In the field, he was a compassionate person who demonstrated a caring bedside manner. He clearly recognized the intrinsic value of being involved in and out of the classroom for his professional development here at the college."

"It was my interest in osteopathic medicine that brought me here to NSU," Gheewala said. Once on campus, his interests extended beyond medicine. He got involved in theatre and performed in student productions such as A Midsummer Night's Dream and Cinderella-The Musical. He participated in cultural dance competitions with the Indian Student Association.

"I had a great undergraduate experience," he said. "We have a great student community. Because I lived on campus, I got to know a lot of students here. I developed a lot of great friendships with students and faculty members. We were privileged at the Farquhar College of Arts and Sciences to have small class sizes and teachers that focus on their students. They always knew me by name. That made my experience all the more worthwhile."

After taking a year off from school, Gheewala plans to put his Dual Admission Program and internship experiences to good use by entering a four-year graduate program in osteopathic medicine, likely followed by at least a three-year residency.