August, 19th 2023
By Megan Clancy
This summer, with the ink still not dry on her Anthropology degree, newly graduated CC alum, Emily Faulks ’23, experienced her first foray into post-CC education by participating in the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program.
“Coming straight from the Block Plan and graduation, I was a little disoriented when I arrived in Genoa, the place I had chosen for my Doctors in Italy Fellowship,” says Faulks. “I wanted to be thrown in a different city and to observe a different healthcare culture to that of the U.S.”
For the next three weeks, Faulks spent her mornings and early afternoons shadowing different specialists at the historic Galliera Hospital. The rest of the day was spent exploring the city and towns along the coast that bordered Genoa.
The Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program was launched in 2018, in partnership with some of Italy’s most prestigious hospitals. And in 2022, the fellowship expanded to include veterinary medicine, acknowledging the interconnected health of humans, animals, and the environment. The program’s mission is to create a generation of healthcare professionals who share the vision of a world where language and culture are not barriers in healthcare. Aspiring doctors, nurses, physician assistants, veterinarians, dentists, physical therapists, and other healthcare professionals come from all over the world to shadow doctors and surgeons in their daily activities. The Fellowship combines intensive clinical rotation (40 to 80 hours of shadowing) with in-depth immersion in Italian culture, discovering Rome, Milan, Florence, Bologna, Perugia, Ferrara, and Genoa.
“I was lucky enough to watch an OB/GYN surgeon conduct a hysterectomy on a younger female patient. The patient had not gotten screened for cancer, and it had been growing exponentially to the point it was necessary to have surgery as soon as possible once she got to the hospital.”
This experience was one of the multiple insights Faulks had to how other cultures view health and healthcare. She says a nurse told her during the surgery that some women in Italy still feel ashamed to get tested. “The stigma of certain women’s health issues was something I wrote about in my senior thesis,” says Faulks. “It was so interesting to hear about it applied to another culture.”
When asked what the most difficult aspect of the program was for her, Faulks notes that, more than anything, it was the language. “This is to be expected, but my 100-day streak of Duolingo could not prepare me for the language barrier when observing patient-physician interactions,” she says. “In specialties such as radiology and when sitting in on gynecology appointments, I would be shadowing for sometimes the whole visit only picking up on a few words. Thankfully, after the visit, the doctor or nurse would explain the visit summary in English. The positive side to this is that I am determined to learn Italian now!”
When asked if she felt otherwise prepared for the experience, Faulks credited her time at CC with giving her many of the skills she needed for her time in Italy. “Shadowing the hospital felt a lot like conducting an ethnography, albeit a short one, which is something I learned as an anthropology major at CC,” says Faulks. “I took a lot of notes and transcribed a lot of Italian during my hospital visits.” Now that she has returned to the States (Washington, D.C.), Faulks is taking the next steps towards a career in healthcare by studying for the MCAT. “Once I take the MCAT in January I hope to work as either a Medical Scribe or Behavioral Technician before I go to medical school. Also, I am working towards a certification in TEFL, and it would be a dream to go back to Italy and teach English there.”
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Get to know the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Alumni