Unique UCSF-city internship program offers paid prep for mental health careers

Instead of spending her free periods at Urban High School in San Francisco working on homework or chatting with friends, junior Dylan Marchiel hangs out with doctors and professors at UCSF’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, assisting with research and getting a glimpse into what it’s like to work in the field of mental health.

Marchiel, who just turned 17, was one of the first participants in Change SF, an unusual paid program run by UCSF and the city of San Francisco that aims to expose San Francisco teens and young adults to mental and behavioral health professions like psychiatry, social work, learning disorders, substance abuse and trauma recovery. She’ll be continuing for a second stint, starting in January and continuing through May.

As one of five participants in the inaugural year of the program, Marchiel was assigned to three mentors with whom she met regularly, sat in on research meetings and assisted with research projects, including helping to tally the number of mental health beds available in the Bay Area (not very many, she found) and how climate affects mental health. She also joined in Zoom calls and meetings with UCSF faculty and staff.

What’s been most surprising, Marchiel said, is that the Change SF participants, despite their age and inexperience, are invited — and encouraged — to be active participants, not merely tolerated or relegated to the fringes.

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