It’s become a routine activity, but donating blood is a powerful reminder of humanity’s interdependent nature. The word “blood” even serves as shorthand for close relationships. Blood donors, of course, are vital to the crucial exchange, but so are the behind-the-scenes people who drive individuals to give. As a relations intern for the Blood Donor Program at Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC), sociology major Talia Hardy ’20 of Litchfield, N.H., established connections with community partners to encourage blood donation. In doing so, Hardy learned that relationships are at the heart of hospitals.

At DHMC, any individual who meets basic health prerequisites can walk in during business hours and donate blood. The Blood Donor Program receives about 1500 units of blood and platelets annually, all of which is used at the hospital but only meets 20 percent of its need. To close the gap, the Blood Donor Program is trying to attract new donors.

That’s where Hardy comes into play. Working with her supervisor, Hardy strengthened community outreach relations and initiatives. She reached out to local communities and organizations and asked them to offer incentives — such as free food and coupons — for donors. Every time a donor gives blood, they earn points they can redeem for rewards.

In addition to mastering professional competencies, Hardy developed her project planning and interpersonal skills throughout her internship. Building community partnerships and promoting the donor program to organizations and individuals required her to draw on sociology courses that investigated the motivations behind human behavior.

“An internship is so valuable, as it gives you the opportunity to apply what you have learned to real expectations,” Hardy said. “My duties were diverse and ever-changing; it was the perfect opportunity to put what I studied to the test.”

Hardy also had a variety of other tasks that included interacting with patients and their families, so she had to learn how to communicate with people in vulnerable moments. Organizing a trick-or-treat party for the Children’s Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock and seeing the pure joy on the young patients’ faces stands out as one of the most memorable experiences of her internship.

Colby-Sawyer’s internship requirement gave Hardy a sense of confidence in her future. Before interning at the hospital, Hardy worried about where her sociology major would take her. Now she knows uncertainty is part of life, but also that there are many careers from which she may choose. A hospital is its very own social institution, a group of individuals greater than the sum of their parts. With this in mind, Hardy hopes to become a hospital social worker. Her dream employer? DHMC, the hospital where she’s already formed deep ties.