Even through the pandemic, the Doctors in Italy program provided pre-med students the opportunity to shadow doctors in the European country of Italy.
The pre-med section of UC San Diego is one of the more prominent sections of the student body. Ranging from a wide variety of majors, students target UCSD for their reputation in biological research and overall resources to guide students to medical school.
One of the resources available on campus is Doctors in Italy.
Doctors in Italy is a health-tech company that attempts to connect doctors with travellers and the health care community on an international scale. Through this company, there is a fellowship program in which students can apply to shadow doctors in Italy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic’s first wave of cases, Italy suffered more than most countries in the world. According to the World Economic Forum, an older population throughout the Italian country led to many deaths, especially during the first wave of the pandemic.
During the tailend of the first wave, there were 35,000 deaths during summer 2020. The city was in a serious lockdown, with no one allowed to leave them homes for weeks.
Famously, there is a video of Italians all singing a song out of their windows. The infection rate was not as high as other countries, but the older population resulted in the city needing to take more serious measures.
Because of the pandemic and program being based in Italy, the Doctors in Italy fellowship faced serious challenges in continuing the program.
Yet, the minds at the program gathered so that they could plan on having students come over during the pandemic. The program used their relationships with hospitals in Italy to find a hospital that avoided COVID patients and maintained high standards of safety.
“We choose a hospital that is JCI accredited,” Nadia Neytcheva, the CEO of Doctors in Italy, told The UCSD Guardian. “JCI accreditation means that it is a high-level standard of a hospital. These high standards guaranteed us a high standard of safety to make sure the students are in good hands and are able to shadow. The main part where the students were shadowing did not feature many COVID patients.”
The students were still able to travel and landed in Italy with their protocols in mind. There were various hurdles to clear for the program to continue. With shadowing doctors, it is only possible to do so effectively in person.
“The reason why we think this program is more important even right now is that the world is becoming more borderless,” Nadia Neytcheva said. “In the digital future where people will be working from any region, it is even more important for health care workers to build relationships and trust people from everywhere. We want students of today who will be future doctors to be prepared and for doctors themselves to be more exposed to international students overall.”
Apart from wanting to connect people on an international level, the program also is attempting to showcase the European model of universal healthcare to American students. Miss Neytcheva pointed out the contrasting method of healthcare can give students a new perspective on healthcare.
The student can take their knowledge about the Italian healthcare system and compare it to American healthcare.
The hope is, in the program’s eyes, the American healthcare system improves with the adoption and implementation of certain aspects of the Italian healthcare system.
The program’s main goal is assisting students through the pre-med process.
The job shadowing aspect exposes students to the nature of being a doctor with a wide variety of specializations offered. From surgery to check ups, the student can narrow down their own desired career path.
“Job shadowing is really important,” Nadia Neytcheva said. “I wish I had it when I was younger. When you really don’t know what you want to do with your life, being exposed to the reality of the profession really helps. It takes so much time and effort, before committing to this large profession, it is really important to know what you are getting into. Besides all those medical dramas.”
The hands-on experience also translates to a better medical school application. The experiences while job shadowing provide more motivation and reasoning for essay prompts based on the question of “Why do you want to study medicine?”
The question is asked on many applications and the experiences up close in-person provide for more detail in the response.
The program also advertises more attention than the average job shadow in the states.
“The other reason is to expose themselves to European medicine is to build relationships with doctors and the doctors in Italy mentor them more than in the states,” Nadia Neytcheva told The Guardian. “They are treated like guests, since they come from abroad, instead of being a regular student in their own home country. This creates, for students, a set of mentors and some follow-up opportunities as well.”
The overseas experience for students can provide a different look at medicine than others in America and an experience with different techniques and approaches.
The aim of the program is through the various looks and experience that is gathered, students are able to further explore their passion for medicine, whether it results in further motivation or the need to look for a different career path.
“If you are willing to fly over the ocean, be in a hospital for a few weeks, and study so hard to get good grades,” Nadia Neytcheva told The Guardian. “There will be no second guessing about what you want to do, You will be more committed to your goal. But if you find out medicine is not for you, you save yourself time and money. We have had students, who after months and years, reach out to the doctors again when needing a letter of recommendation or assistance in their essays or just asking questions about the speciality as a whole.”
The application is available through their website. The program can help those indecisive about their plans after college, but are somewhat interested in medicine and also assist those who know they want to become doctors.
With COVID looming, the program showcased their priority is not only keeping the program going no matter what, but also in the safest manner for students. Their past resilience might provide some comfort to those who worry about what could happen.
Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels.