KIP Student Feature – Ethan Wanner 

Ethan’s volunteer ID badge

Ethan Wanner (CAS’26) is a biology major on the pre-med track and spent the summer at the Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic in Milwaukee. The Clinic is a part of the Aurora Health Care network and is the largest free clinic in the state of Wisconsin. In this interview, Ethan shares more about the work he did as a part of the Patient Advocate team and the optimism he gained regarding healthcare justice.


Q&A with Ethan Wanner
  

Could you give us a brief description of the organization you are interning with and what your primary responsibilities are during this internship? 

The Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic is the largest free clinic in the state of Wisconsin. Here, patients see general practitioners, nurses, specialists, and get lab work done completely free of charge. Within the clinic, I’m part of the Patient Advocate team that serves as the liaison between patients and PAPs (Patient Assistance Programs) offered by large pharmaceutical companies. We assist patients—of which the majority are migrants/refugees who primarily speak Spanish—with the application process for these programs so that they can receive a variety of vital medications at no cost. We also manage the prepping and dispensing of these medications right in the clinic upon receiving them from companies such as Lilly, Merck, AstraZeneca, Viatris, and Abbvie. In my fulfillment of this work, I’ve been required to be in constant communication with these companies, our patients, and the healthcare professionals right in the clinic.  

How did your internship fulfill the goals of social justice? 

Healthcare is a human right, but it does not always manifest itself as such in the U.S. healthcare system. Countless barriers stand in the way of people receiving adequate, quality healthcare in the U.S., especially for vulnerable patient populations like the ones we serve at the clinic. With our efforts, we make the promise of good health a reality for many who would otherwise be impeded in attaining it. 

Has the work you have done this summer changed how you think about social justice? 

Without direct experience, you can’t quite grasp just how rewarding it is to devote so much time to social justice work, even when it doesn’t guarantee a hefty paycheck at the end of the week. The reward is finding a family in a diverse grassroots community and working together to improve the lives of those who face unfair barriers. I’ve met some really down-to-earth colleagues, worked with some incredibly humble, grateful, and honest patients, and found personal fulfillment which I’ve lacked from other job experiences. Also, as a result of working in a free clinic, I’ve actually gained some optimism regarding healthcare justice. It was refreshing to see the successful synthesis of people and resources to provide essential care in a setting free of the consumerism that dominates every other aspect of our lives. And it was certainly interesting to learn about the programs that exist within large corporations for folks with financial need. While there is certainly a lot of progress to be made in terms of healthcare policy and drug costs, I didn’t realize that it is in fact possible for someone who is undocumented and makes zero income to get a full year’s supply of insulin completely free of charge! The accumulation of small success stories like these is what made this experience incredibly impactful, and it’s these moments that make me want to be a part of a brighter future for healthcare in the U.S. 

How did you find out about this internship, and what advice would you give to students hoping to apply for this funding opportunity in the future? 

Once I knew I wanted to pursue the Kilachand Internship Program at the intersection of medicine and social justice, I initially eyed up a free clinic right in my hometown of Waukesha, WI. But, I discovered that they weren’t accepting volunteers who didn’t attend the local university which they were partnered with. So, I had to expand my search. I found the Aurora Walker’s Point Community Clinic from a webpage with a list of free clinics in Southeast Wisconsin. Free clinic databases are fairly easy to come by and can be found on government or state/national free clinic association websites. It was evident that this clinic was well-established, and it clearly fit the criteria for KIP, so after a couple of phone calls and emails with the volunteer coordinator, I was well on my way towards applying.  

For students interested in KIP, be sure to articulate exactly how you are going to make the most of your time with this experience. Find an opportunity to which you can connect your interests and passions, and think hard about the impacts the experience may have on your professional journey. In my case, I was able to connect this internship not only to my interest in pursuing medicine, but also my interest in speaking Spanish!  And lastly, if you need any more convincing to pursue KIP, I would argue that it is a fantastic way to “get your foot in the door” with your field of interest. It may be difficult to find traditional, quality, paid positions as only a freshman or sophomore, which is where volunteering comes in. Non-profits are always looking for bright, thoughtful individuals to help with unique projects/programs. It would be a mistake to underestimate the value of the connections, experience, learning, and self-discovery that you can earn from volunteering! 

How has the Kilachand coursework helped prepare you for the work you are doing during your internship? 

While my time in Kilachand has so far been defined by coursework that deliberately does not relate to my professional fields of interest, I still see how I’ve applied it to my time at the clinic. For example, I used my freedom in picking the subject of my research essay in Writing Studio II to explore a topic that would help me transition to my first experience in a clinical setting. In general, it was very helpful to be able to research some of the healthcare problems that I would ultimately attack in my internship—talk about a full-circle moment. Additionally, both Studio and Seminar coursework guided me towards investigating topics relating to immigration, the immigrant experience, and immigration barriers faced in the U.S. I found even greater meaning in this learning when it came to sympathizing with and understanding the diverse population of immigrants who sought care at our clinic throughout the Summer. 

 

Learn more about the Kilachand Internship Program here.