Scarlett Morales Pon

Future Doctor

August, 8th 2023


Article credits

Austin Peay State University

By Ethan Steinquest

Austin Peay State University (APSU) student Scarlett Morales Pon, a freshman medical lab science major, shadowed medical professionals in Italian hospitals this summer.


Morales Pon’s two-week June fellowship took her to the historic city of Bologna in northern Italy, where she worked with doctors specializing in cardiovascular internal medicine at Policlinico Di Sant’Orsola Malphigi. She said the shadowing hours were essential in preparing for her post-graduate career.


“It’s definitely going to help me with the pre-physician’s assistant program that I’m going to apply for after graduating, and it’s also made me want to be more deeply involved with my career,” Morales Pon said. “The program helped me understand things I’d forgotten, and I’d like to go back to Italy and do more shadowing.”

Scarlett with her fellow shadowing companions at the entrance to historic Sant'Orsola hospital.

“I was excited because one of the things I’ve always wanted to do was go to Italy, so doing my shadowing hours there was pretty much perfect for me,” Morales Pon said. “I was looking up information about the hospital [I went to], and their page said it was one of the most important in Italy with excellent programs and medical schooling.”


Morales Pon aims to become a physician’s assistant and transferred to APSU last semester after moving to Memphis from Honduras. She previously studied for four years at a dental school in her home country and wanted to continue her education in the medical field.

Scarlett 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

Morales Pon’s time in Bologna was more specifically focused on cardiovascular internal medicine, and she experienced everything from day-to-day interactions with patients to emergency operations. “The first week was about building a connection with the patients, talking to them and learning what was going on,” she said. “We pretty much followed the doctors and some of their medical students while they did everyday checkups of patients.”


After that, the students spent two days shadowing doctors in the emergency room and three days learning from surgical professionals. Morales Pon said she especially appreciated being able to stand near the operating table.


“Normally, when you’re shadowing, the doctors want you to be a bit further away so they can do their work,” she said. “But since I had the primary doctor showing me, they let me be close to the patient to see what was happening. They asked me about nerves and arteries and questioned me to help me understand the body’s anatomy and what was happening.”

Making connections and lifelong friendships with healthcare professionals is unbeatable!

Morales Pon said that experience was more valuable than time in the classroom because the procedures were happening right in front of her. “In the surgical unit, I learned many simple things,” she said. “But when you take anatomy or see these things in a textbook, it’s not the same as when you’re looking at a real live person … [and] we’d see what was happening with lots of different patients, from kids to older people.”


The trip also allowed Morales Pon to explore the differences between healthcare systems and cultures in the U.S. and Italy. “In Italy, there’s more connection between the patient and the doctor,” she said. “[I saw] more talking, care and understanding … Italians are very open and charismatic, and they’re not afraid to be close to one another.”


“I went to Rome and Venice on the weekend, which was very interesting,” Morales Pon said. “Between the week, we went to the historical parts of Bologna, including the oldest university in Europe. It had an anatomy table with chairs all around the room facing directly toward it, and it was from medieval times.” 

Up close and personal in the Operating Room.

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In the spotlight

Get to know the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Alumni

Gillian Gaynor Future Doctor from University of Notre Dame Shadowing Doctors in Genoa, Italy

Gillian Gaynor

University of Notre Dame

When I was at Oxford, I also volunteered at a hospital in England, I wanted to get another perspective on a different healthcare system.

Nthabeleng MacDonald Future Doctor From Gallaudet University Shadowing Doctors in Rome, Italy

Nthabeleng MacDonald

Gallaudet University

"There are not many deaf doctors in the world right now, and I want to fill that gap"

Haley Boom Future Doctor from University at Albany Shadowed Doctors in Bologna, Italy

Haley Boom

University at Albany

"Doctors explained the Italian healthcare system and were curious about the American one"