GV student broadens knowledge on healthcare in Italy


Courtesy / Martina Conte

Melia Williams, Staff Writer

Many students choose to study abroad over the course of their time at Grand Valley State University. One student who took advantage of this opportunity is pre-physician assistant senior Lauren Carabio, who traveled to Milan last May for two weeks to shadow doctors in a hospital while being a part of a fellowship. 

This fellowship, Doctors in Italy, was a program established in 2018 with the intent for students from all over the world to learn from medical professionals with a hands-on shadowing experience in fields such as surgery, medicine, orthopedics, cardiology, oncology, pediatrics, emergency medicine and more. 

“Throughout the time that I was there, I was able to rotate amongst different specialties within the hospital,” Carabio said. “So I was assigned to emergency, ophthalmology, OBGYN and endocrinology.” 

With the healthcare systems being different in different countries, resources like these helped expose Carabio to different forms of healthcare. This sentiment is echoed by CEO and co-founder of Doctors in Italy, Nadia Neytcheva.

“The European healthcare system is very interesting to someone who is not familiar with the concept of socialized medicine and leaning towards public health care and support for everyone,” Neytcheva said.

Neytcheva also emphasized how students are shadowing in top-notch hospitals full of doctors that have the background and experience in different countries in both clinical and research settings. One of the biggest advantages to this fellowship is that students are fully immersed into what they could potentially be doing as a career. 

“They are really standing right next to the doctors, the nurses and the medical professionals,” Neytcheva said. “So they get to experience what a day in the life of these doctors is and how medicine is practiced in a different healthcare environment.”

Prior to this experience, Carabio had never traveled alone or out of the country. She said taking part in this fellowship has given her a much broader cultural perspective.

“Every aspect of Europe and Italy, in general, is so different from the US, especially comparing the healthcare systems,” Carabio said. 

This program specifically places students with doctors or residents in Italy that speak English, however there can be a language barrier in some cases. 

“The language barrier was tough at times, but I feel like some words are very similar and also with just like, mannerisms and body language, you were able to pick up on what they were saying,” Carabio said. “For the most part, I was able to communicate effectively both with the patient and the doctor.” 

If students are interested in this program but are worried about the cost there are scholarships and financial aid available. 

“We also do have some scholarships in term for students who are worried of not being able to afford it because we found a few scholarships for every program to make sure that we give access also to students who have financial needs and support,” Neytcheva said. 

Applications for this program are always available on a rolling basis at shadow.doctorsinitaly.com. Spots are filled based on the availability of the programs. 

“We have programs running during the summer and winter and we also have some special programs throughout the year,” Neytcheva said. “We also have a new program for future veterinarians.”

The experience as a whole is beneficial to students in terms of exposure to new cultures and pushing them outside of their comfort zone. 

“I definitely think it’s a phenomenal program,” Carabio said. “It definitely changed my life, so I definitely would encourage students to seek out studying abroad.”