October, 22nd 2023
This past summer I decided to participate in the three week Doctors in Italy fellowship program in Florence, Italy from July 10th to July 22nd. Through this program myself and a couple other students were able to shadow doctors who specialized in different fields at Careggi hospital, where they taught us the ins and outs of Italian medicine.
When I first applied for the program in early November I did not know what to expect. Initially I was excited at the idea due to my uncertainty in becoming a doctor, I wanted more insight, I wanted to know if the profession was worth the hassle of getting into. Then after getting accepted, in early January I started to doubt my choice to be a doctor overall. I started to look into alternative healthcare jobs, I honestly felt like I was not good enough to be a doctor due to everything going on in my life. I finally decided to focus on becoming a Nurse anesthetist, at the time I thought it was the best choice for me.
At that point I still wanted to go and experience the program, but my family did not see the point of me going due to the fact that I decided to not apply for medical school. I decided I would still try my best to attend the program because I really wanted to have that experience. I honestly thought this experience would really help me decide what I truly wanted to do as well as give me the inspiration to do so. After a lot of hard work I was able to attain my Visa, a scholarship and the remaining funds to go to Italy and participate in the program in Florence.
I remember feeling so excited to have been able to go there on my 21st birthday. In the beginning I was so intrigued by the hospital and the Italian healthcare workers, but in the first couple days I did not find the sign I was looking for yet. Then I was put to shadow Dr.Voltolini in the Cardio Thoracic department, on that day he was scheduled to remove a left lobe with a tumor inside. At first I was very nervous since I was the only one shadowing him that day but he was amazing! He actually explained most of what was happening during the surgery and as the attending physician you can imagine how hard that would be to do. I remember there was a point in the surgery where I watched Voltolini and saw myself doing the exact same thing, it was at that moment when I knew I had to become a doctor and motivated me to go through whatever hurdle to get there. Plus it didn’t hurt that after he removed the left lobe, he let me hold it and he also dissected it so I could see and feel the tumor inside.
Due to this experience, over the past couple months I’ve watched myself become more confident in my decisions and actions, I know who I am and what I want to do. After shadowing all the specialties, I honestly feel like I fell in love with most of them. Those departments were Gastrointestinal Surgery, Pneumology, Cardio thoracic surgery, ortho/oncology, Gynecology and Maternity. Some were more pleasant than others, but my favorite two departments were ortho/oncology and cardio thoracic surgery. Since the experience with most departments were so great, I honestly could see myself in most of them which is why it is hard for me to pick a specialty as of now. In regards to what I plan to do next, I would like to apply to a medical school affiliated with Europe where I could complete medical school there and my residency in the United States. Hopefully when that is completed, I will be able to pick a specialty where I can help patients clinically and surgically.
One part of my experience in Italy that was completely amazing was making all the connections that I did with the doctors and the other students. Within the first week of meeting the other participants we all decided to go to Cinque Terre where we stayed and traveled to all 5 cities for three days until our next shadowing sessions at the hospital. It was truly such a beautiful experience, I felt so independent and free, I can honestly say that this trip felt like the beginning of my adulthood. Then within the second week, we were going out with the doctors and forming connections with them. Forming those connections really opened my eyes to how important it is to get out of my comfort zone, although I am somewhat extraverted I am not very comfortable meeting new people. Once I made myself become more comfortable with everyone I was able to learn so much from my fellow peers and just bond with them.
I want everyone reading my story to understand that it is so important to push yourself to the limit and do things that make you uncomfortable, because if I didnt I would not have had such a beautiful time in Italy falling in love with the culture, the food and the people. I am very thankful to everyone within the Doctors in Italy team. Especially Margarita, our coordinator, she was honestly an amazing person that I also enjoyed getting to know. This program has helped me grow, mentally and emotionally and because of it I fell back in love with the idea of becoming a doctor and I am forever grateful.
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