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Empowering the next generation through VA Palo Alto’s internship initiative

Internship students are gaining valuable experience in lab work
Summer 2023 VA-PAVIR internship students Kobe Ly and Xiaorong Guo are gaining valuable experience through lab work.

At VA Palo Alto, 2 internship programs are shaping the future of health care research and promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion.

With the VA-Palo Alto Veterans Institute for Research (PAVIR) Summer Research Program and the VA Palo Alto Health Services Research (HSR) Internship Program, students can get hands-on experience while working with some of the world’s leading experts in health care research.

VA-PAVIR Summer Research Program is an 8-week learning opportunity for aspiring undergraduate students who are considering a career in biomedical research. This in-person internship allows students to work closely with experienced mentors on ongoing projects, fostering scientific curiosity and preparing them for the next stage of research training or career.

Samantha Hamilton, a second-year student at University of California, Los Angeles, participated in the program, gaining valuable experience in lab work, including learning to use the latest technology in anesthesia and how to harvest tissue.

“The amount of experience I got from 8 weeks is just incredible. I got a lot of independence to learn a lot and try a lot, and I had a lot of fun,” said Hamilton.

The HSR Internship Program emphasizes diversity, equity, and inclusion as its guiding principles to expose students to careers in VA health care research and evaluation. This 8-week virtual internship is designed to empower local community college students from historically excluded groups.

The program provides a holistic approach that includes mentorship, participating in collaborative research projects, engaging in subject matter expert presentations and discussions, attending skills-based training, and culminates in impactful presentations to the VA Palo Alto community. By breaking down barriers and nurturing young talent, this internship program builds a diverse pipeline of future leaders in health care research.

Air Force Veteran Josh Miguel, who is transferring to San Francisco State University from community college, discovered this opportunity through his public health professor. During the program, Josh ventured into the world of understanding and coding data, a field that took him out of his comfort zone.

“I had no background at all with coding. I didn't go to school for that, I served in the Air Force. So coming back to this and being able to see myself do this, I think it’s great just being able to see the progression from it. And I think I have a clearer direction now of what I want to do with my career,” said Miguel.

Both internship programs are integral parts of larger collaborative efforts between science entities in VA. PAVIR is one of the many unique public/private partnerships that dramatically broadened VA’s ability to benefit from private and non-VA public support for research conducted at VA medical centers. The HSR Internship partnered with the VA’s Center of Implementation to Innovation, Health Economics Resource Center (HERC) and the National Center for PTSD who are all located at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System. These internship programs hope to share a new generation of health care leaders committed to equity and accessibility at VA and the broader field of health care.

For further information about VA-PAVIR, please visit the VA-PAVIR website, or contact For more information about the VA Palo Alto HSR Internship, please contact