Molly Aaronson, ’17, says that watching her brother go through cancer treatment was “the worst thing in the world.”

Aaronson’s older brother was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma during her senior year of high school. Since her brother’s recovery and remission, Aaronson set a goal for herself: She would do something to help others experiencing the same thing that she, her brother, and her family had gone through. That was how she ended up at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC) for her Jepson Internship.

During the first week of her programming and recreation internship in pediatrics, Aaronson assisted with executing MSKCC’s annual convocation ceremony that honors any graduating high school seniors who received treatment at MSKCC. She remembers, “I think we must have gone through about 100 packs of tissues.”

Additionally, she planned, designed, and executed educational programming to engage and entertain the children and their siblings. She explains that “holistic care is important to treating cancer patients because without it, it is easy to be consumed by one’s diagnosis. There is no getting around the fact that having cancer is scary and it is a daily battle. But providing care that goes beyond simply medical needs allows a patient to be a person again, and in pediatrics, it allows a kid to be a kid again.”

The wide array of workers, from doctors and nurses to child life staff members, who provide both medical and non-medical care for patients, gave Aaronson many opportunities to study leadership. Using her supervisor, the pediatric programs manager, to illustrate this point, Aaronson says: “She plans everything, is always busy but somehow still remembers every patient’s name and their family’s name. She is available to any person, employee or otherwise, at any moment, and she can seemingly do everything from inspiring staff members to attain their goals to stopping a seemingly unstoppable flow of tears from a small patient’s eyes.”

Aaronson says that she has relied on many leaders and mentors “to teach me everything I need to know to get through a day in pediatrics” and to guide her through the challenges that come from working with critically ill children.

“It is so easy to forget that the children I see every day are sick until, as a result of their treatment, they throw a fit or get scared or throw up,” says Aaronson. “In those situations, the worst thing to do is allow myself to be fazed by it — the last thing they need is for me to be scared. I try to overcome it by taking a deep breath whenever I get overwhelmed, and I often think about my brother. He was so strong throughout his treatment, and I have experience being strong for him too.”

Aaronson points out that, even in the midst of so much horrible sickness and struggle, there are still silver linings of “the positivity and love that seemingly always pulls through.” She says, “Entire families spend the day together in the hospital, rally around each other in public displays of love that I don’t often see in my ordinary life.”

Aaronson is still figuring out what her post-college future looks like, but she notes that in addition to meeting her goal of helping other families experiencing cancer treatment, she has learned so much about the healthcare industry through her internship.

“I have had to be flexible, strong, communicative and creative to succeed here,” says Aaronson. “As of now, I have started to consider a future in healthcare as a result of my experience here at Sloan Kettering.”