When students in Tennessee Tech’s spring 2017 global health class visited Italy for the study abroad portion of the course, they expected to learn about how health systems there work and to be inspired toward passionate careers in medically-related fields.
They got that, but they also left behind an impression on an organization called Doctors in Italy whose doctors were so impressed with Tech’s students that they are developing a medical study exchange program with Tennessee Tech as their first academic partner.
“The students were introduced to global health issues before going on the trip by enrolling in the UNPP 3020 course,” said instructor and advisor for students in Tech’s pre-professional health sciences program Thomas Turner. “This course challenged these students to think about how natural disasters, immigration patterns and environmental factors all affect healthcare.”
On Tech’s campus, they learned about efforts of governmental agencies, like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, and non-governmental agencies, like Doctors Without Borders and Doctors in Italy. Then, the class traveled to Italy where they got to see some of the systems they learned about first-hand.
“The Doctors in Italy group was so impressed by the interest and professionalism of our students that they are working on developing an international exchange program for pre-med students, from all around the world, to work with medical professionals in Rome, Italy at local walk-in practices, hospitals, United Nations medical clinics, and local universities,” Turner said.
Doctors in Italy collaborates with local hospitals and clinics to serve local and tourist populations, as tourists can increase the population of Rome by 2.4 million people during high travel times. The Tech students got to ask the doctors questions about how they do their work and how the health systems in Europe operate.
“It was really cool because they even ended up having questions for us,” said Niki Graves, a pre-med student at Tech. “It provided a new perspective on things. We are so used to how things work here and it gave us a lot to think about. I loved it.”
Graves is interested in being a surgeon some day and, like many of the students who went on the trip, her interest in healthcare and medicine was only enhanced through the experience.
“The Doctors in Italy group taught me a lot more than I initially expected going into it,” said Megan Hill, a nursing student at Tech. “They had a lot of insight and accepted all of our questions openly.”
Hill was especially interested in looking at the nutrition of the Italian population, but said she also learned a lot about how the healthcare system is funded and how that impacts patient care.
“It was very eye-opening,” said Paige Barlow, pre-physician assistant student. “It was something I had never thought about before. It was an experience of a lifetime that I will never forget.”
While the students say the experience was life-changing for them, what they didn’t realize during their trip is that their enthusiasm and interest could also change the lives of other students as well as they inspired the establishment of the Doctors in Italy international exchange program.
“I truly believe that studying abroad is an opportunity that every college student should experience,” said Pamela Owens, pre-physical therapy student at Tech.
Now, more pre-med students may get to do just that.
Doctors in Italy
Tennessee Tech students met with representatives from Doctors in Italy during their study abroad portion of their global health course. In front, from left are Nicole Graves, Shelby Granstaff, Macy Wright, Bailey Holcomb and Megan Hill. In back, from left are Mckenzie Carver, Drew Smith, Maxillo-facial surgeon at Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore Dr. Gianmarco Saponaro, Kylee Parrott, Alicen Long, Paige Barlow, Sierra Cothron, Hannah Leach, Carolyn Ciotti, Thomas Turner and Patient Services Manager Chiara Valcastelli. Not pictured but also involved in the course are Chemistry Department Chair Jeff Boles, Alex Kelley, Krystal Nguyen and Pamela Owens.