DoctorsinItaly, a program for students entering the healthcare profession, reinvested an ASU student’s interest in becoming a neurosurgeon.
Augustus Storm, a first-year biological science student, spent four weeks in the program last summer. Originally planned for three, Storm extended his time after immersing himself in the culture and the medical system, which saved him over 100 hours of observation to devote to applying to medical school.
Unrelated to Doctors Without Borders, DoctorsinItaly, established in 2018, is a scholarship program aimed at providing students with the opportunity to learn more about health care and the daily life of medical professionals by following doctors in surgery , medicine, orthopedics, cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, emergency medicine and beyond in Italy, according to its website.
During her four weeks, Storm had a number of opportunities to improve her medical knowledge, including observing a neurological medical procedure that reinvested her “interest in becoming a neurosurgeon.”
“I was kind of floating between the kind of surgeon I wanted to be,” Storm said. “It really started this fire.”
Storm received a letter of recommendation after completing the program, which realigned her vision and passion for learning. He also had opportunities to use later in his journey to medical school, including a research opportunity to potentially earn internship credit for his major through the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix.
“Just days into the program, Storm was one of the most active students,” said Federico Arena, Doctors in Italy growth operations associate and former on-site coordinator.
Storm and many other students in the program were in a unique position because most pre-med students don’t get shadowing opportunities this early in their studies.
Martina Conte, admissions coordinator for DoctorsinItaly, said in an email that the program was created to create relevant international experiences for future healthcare professionals and help prepare them for a career in a global community.
The idea was born to ensure that the future of healthcare has no borders or barriers to connecting culture, language and understanding, said Nadia Neytcheva, co-founder and director of the DoctorsinItaly program.
“We realized that pre-health students and future health professionals, in general, have this need to experience their profession as soon as they can,” Neytcheva said.
DoctorsinItaly works closely with Bocconi University of Milan, which sponsors exemplary companies and projects, giving the scholarship a mark of quality.
Neytcheva said this is aimed at taking students out of their comfort zone, preparing them to connect with others who share the same passion for health care and to be immersed in a real health care environment with physicians caring for patients.
The program has welcomed students from Canada, South America, European countries and the United States, but is open to students from all over the world.
Ninety-three universities have participated in the summer 2022 program, and 120 U.S. universities have participated since the program began in 2018.
Students learn about a different healthcare system, different ways of managing patients, and different roles in healthcare that may not exist in the United States.
Neytcheva said it can help cement students’ decisions and give them the confidence they need when the path gets tougher years later. But it can also help students who want to rule out health care as a future career.
Storm said he learned the virtue that comes with being a surgeon, seeing firsthand the seriousness of putting your hand in someone else’s life.
He said that since there was no language barrier in the operating room, surgeons would explain the procedure, interview students and keep them engaged.
“To be able to once immerse yourself in something that you want to pursue as a career and then also be surrounded by the history of some of the earliest documented or still standing cultures is really cool,” Storm said.
Neytcheva said the program gives students the opportunity to have experiences that tourists don’t have. With the various excursions and group activities, they were able to learn about Italian culture with the on-site activity leaders.
But Neytcheva wants to expand. DoctorsinItaly is working to find new hospital partners and to go beyond the Italian borders.
“We want more and more students to know that this opportunity exists,” Neytcheva said. “Especially students who are first-generation future healthcare professionals, and they may not have enough support and mentorship and they may not be confident enough to dream of themselves as future professionals.”
Currently, DoctorsinItaly is expanding its reach by increasing scholarships to give more opportunities to students.
“If you haven’t been exposed to something, it’s hard to dream about it and see yourself doing it. So we want them to know that this opportunity exists and you don’t need to have connections to participate,” Neytcheva said.
Edited by Jasmine Kabiri, Wyatt Myskow and Luke Chatham.
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Alyssa BickleCommunity journalist
Alyssa Bickle is a staff reporter, writing for the Community and Culture office. She is a writing tutor for University Academic Success Programs and a member of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. She is pursuing bachelor’s degrees in journalism and political science.
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