Student Internship Reflection
Whenever a pre-med student is asked about studying abroad, the typical answer involves a skeptical smirk, an eye roll, and some sort of a mannerism embodying the sarcastic words “yeah, right.” As a pre-med student in my junior year, that is how I reacted the first time I was asked about studying abroad. As if fours years of biology, organic chemistry, physics, calculus – the list goes on – wasn’t enough to worry about, the thought of taking a semester off to travel and enjoy my time as a college student was almost too good to be true; however, it proved possible and was overwhelmingly rewarding for me.
I spent a semester abroad at the John Felice Rome Center and through close cooperation with Nadia Cristiani, the JFRC internship coordinator, I had the opportunity to intern at a Nuclear Medicine Clinic. While at Madonna Della Fiducia, I assisted in the cardiology department for ten hours every week and was exposed to a clinical setting while having the chance to observe and gain hands-on experience. I worked under the direct supervision of Dr. Nudi, the head of the cardiology department in the clinic, and collaborated with Dr. Biondi Zoccai on a medical scope review. By participating in both the clinical and research aspect of the internship, I gained a greater appreciation and understanding of how Myocardial Perfusion Scintigraphy and Radioactive Isotopes work in the context of Nuclear Medicine. Being able to learn the technical side of the process and then witness it in person added a valuable dimension to the internship that allowed me to communicate with people, while applying my knowledge gained from books. Similarly, having access to nuclear imaging results and doctors’ interpretations also taught me about cardiovascular problems, which was quite beneficial to me as a current EMT and future physician.
Through my internship at Madonna Della Fiducia, I assisted with over 300 exercise stress tests, pharmacological tests and myocardial Perfusion Scintigraphy acquisitions. I learned Italian medical terminology and basic dialogue, which helped me to adapt to the culture and introduced me to a different healthcare system. I conducted EKGs, which resulted in my ability to recognize arrhythmias, the delay of electrical impulse in the right and left ventricle, and ST elevations and depressions. While taking a patient’s blood pressure and observing their behavior during the stress test, I could see the direct impact that Myocardial Ischemia had on each individual. Besides the technical and medical knowledge that I have gained from this internship, I have also learned a lot about cultural awareness and being able to adapt. I was exposed to a more personable, patient-doctor relationship, which greatly differed from the interactions that I have experienced in a United States clinic. Although my previous experience as an EMT in a clinic and on campus has helped me with patient interaction, this internship offered a new challenge because of the language barrier. When I first walked into the clinic, I had no idea what to expect. Although I was incredibly nervous and anxious, it was this unpredictability that pushed me out of my comfort zone and motivated me to work harder.
By sharing my experience, I want to encourage other pre-med students to brainstorm and look further into the possibility of studying abroad. Although it required a lot of planning, emailing, and some summer school classes, it was certainly worth it in the end. I must say that this internship will forever define my experience in Rome. The Italian attitude of investing time into people rather than just progress and results, deeply resonated with me. While some students simply see studying abroad as the chance to relax, take advantage of the lax drinking laws, and take easier classes in order to travel, this time can also be used effectively to seek out opportunities that will allow pre-med students to stand out while applying to medical schools. By patiently seeking out possible internships or volunteer options in other countries, every pre-med student should look at studying abroad as a chance to become a more culturally aware and well-rounded future physician.
Nevertheless, having an educational experience by participating in a demanding internship does not mean that students will miss out on the opportunity to have a great time, travel, and make memorable friendships. Working in the clinic introduced me to wonderful individuals and offered me a glimpse into true Italian lifestyles rather than the typical exposure that tourists receive. Through effective planning and balancing of all of my responsibilities, I was still able to travel throughout Italy along with countries like Greece, Croatia, Morocco, and Spain. It is crucial for me to emphasize that studying abroad is what you make of it. I was lucky enough to get the best of both worlds while immersing myself in the Italian medical system and simultaneously travelling all over Europe. I am truly thankful for this life-changing opportunity and hope to bring this open-minded, Italian attitude along with me, when approaching any and every new experience.