Julia Ognibene

Future Doctor

September, 29th 2023


Article credits

Penn Today

By Kristina Garcia

Julia Ognibene is Italian on all sides. Each of her four grandparents immigrated from the Old World to America, and her mother is constantly looking for ways to strengthen the connection to their heritage, Ognibene says. That’s how the second-year from Westchester, New York, ended up in Bologna, Italy this summer, spending five weeks shadowing doctors in specialties ranging from orthopedics to obstetrics and gynecology at the Policlinico di Sant’Orsola, one of Italy’s foremost hospitals.


Ognibene also spent a week touring the country and visiting family alongside her mother and grandmother, immersing herself in the culture and history. “The only way that I really can connect with my Italian culture is through my family,” says Ognibene.

Exploring the heights of Bologna with fellow shadowing companions and new friends.

The Doctors in Italy Fellowship was the perfect way to connect with her heritage while learning more about medicine and health care, she says. The program provides graduate and undergraduate students with the opportunity to shadow health care professionals in both government and private health care facilities.


As a neuroscience major minoring in chemistry and health care management, she was able use the program to get a better perspective of health care, Ognibene says. 

Julia completed the Pre-Health Program

Bologna, Italy

  • 20+ clinical shadowing hours per week
  • Discover 4+ different specialties
  • See how healthcare is practiced IRL
  • 24-hour on-site support

“Choosing to pursue a shadowing opportunity in a foreign country with a different culture and language is a testament to one’s bravery,” says Lisa Ferraro, the country operations manager for the Doctors in Italy Fellowship programs. “We deeply admire Julia’s unwavering commitment to personal growth as she ventured beyond her comfort zone, embracing international education.”


Ognibene brought a new perspective to the program, Ferraro says, introducing new ideas to the group and sparking discussion. One such topic was private versus single-payer health care systems. In Italy, Ognibene got a front-row seat to the pros and cons of both. 


“Some doctors said, ‘We’re very, very proud of our Italian health care system, it’s very strong and we have great access for everybody. It’s one of our proudest features,’” she says. “And then I would speak to other doctors who would say, ‘It’s a great system in theory but on paper, our country’s going into debt.’” 

shadowing at the hospital in Italy
Julia second from left, on a shadowing rotation at the hospital with fellow future healthcare professionals.

Ognibene did not spend much time considering either point of view before the program, which she says helped her better understand the importance of health care and led her to add the health care management minor.


“Being a doctor, it’s important to not only understand the medicine, know your patients, and perform a procedure well, but also to understand what’s driving medicine,” Ognibene says.

Making new friends for life on a similar career path is unbeatable!

Have questions? Connect with our fellows!

Send a question directed to our alumni and you’ll hear back from them.


In the spotlight

Get to know the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Alumni


Bryce Allen

Morehead State University

"My program provided a very realistic and varied experience of what a career in medicine looks like"

Eliana Diaz-Aceituno future doctor from James Madison University shadowed doctors in Italy

Eliana Diaz Aceituno

James Madison University

"In Italy, the doctor and patient have more of a personal relationship than here in the U.S."

Jared Baltz Future Veterinarian From Arkansas State University Shadowed Veterinarians in Rome, Italy

Jared Baltz

Arkansas State University

"the experience showed me proper care for various species and practices for being safe around these large animals"