When In Rome: Montclair State Students Thrive with Doctors in Italy Program

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Published September 15, 2021
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The Montclarion
The women of the two-week Doctors in Italy fellowship program stand for a photo before work. Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has affected all of us throughout the last year, especially those who work in our healthcare industry. This past summer, our very own front-line workers and Montclair State University students traveled abroad to Italy to study and work with doctors.

Thanks to the Doctors in Italy program, established in 2018, four Montclair State medical students had the opportunity to shadow real doctors in their day-to-day activities in Italy for up to five weeks.

The co-founder of Doctors in Italy, Nadia Neytcheva, enjoyed having Montclair State students in her program.

Madelyn Spano from Texas Tech was one of the people Luna-Martinez was able to meet while abroad. Photo courtesy of Mariana Luna-Martinez

Madelyn Spano from Texas Tech University (left) was one of the people Luna-Martinez (right) was able to meet while abroad.
Photo courtesy of Mariana Luna-Martinez

“All the girls from Montclair State were incredibly passionate about healthcare, absolutely professional, bright and clearly have a great future in healthcare ahead,” Neytcheva said. “We were truly happy to have them shadow with us in Rome.”

Neytcheva believes these students embody what she created this program to do.

“The program was created with the purpose of sharing the knowledge of these doctors with students from all over the world who are on a path to become members of a global community of medical professionals,” Neytcheva said. Ever since co-founding this program, I’ve been genuinely excited to see the positive impact it has on students, and how they change and grow in a matter of weeks.”

Mariana Luna-Martinez travels to her favorite place, the Amalfi Coast. Photo courtesy of Mariana Luna-Martinez

Mariana Luna-Martinez travels to her favorite place, the Amalfi Coast.
Photo courtesy of Mariana Luna-Martinez

Mariana Luna-Martinez, a sophomore biology major, arrived a few weeks before her classmates and was very excited to see her school be represented.

“I felt like we, as a [Montclair State] community, had the most representation and that made me really happy,” Luna-Martinez said. “Even though we didn’t know each other yet, I still felt that connection to home while meeting all these fantastic people from all around the world that are there for you.”

Luna-Martinez studied in the five-week program, while Qiana Archer, a senior biology major, was a part of the two-week program, though both are equally as enriching. The Doctors in Italy leaders match students up with different people from Campus Bio-Medico University of Rome, one of Italy’s best hospitals, so they can shadow doctors from all different fields of medicine.

Archer explained that she was able to see many specialties of medicine while abroad.

Qiana Archer poses inside the coliseum during one of her trips across Italy. Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

Qiana Archer poses inside the coliseum during one of her trips across Italy.
Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

“I was able to see different things each day,” Archer said. “I got to see cardiology, anesthesiology, orthopedics, emergency medicine and even the research facility over at the university. Each day I was able to do something different.”

Luna-Martinez agrees with Archer in that the program can be eye-opening for anyone wanting to experiment with different areas of the field.

“It helps to give you some insight for what you want to do because the medical field is a broad spectrum,” Luna-Martinez said. “You go into this program with an idea of what you want to focus on, and maybe you figure out that’s not for you, but you find another specialty that you fall in love with.”

One of the most beautiful buildings Qiana Archer got to visit in Italy, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore. Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

One of the most beautiful buildings Archer got to visit in Italy, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore.
Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

While abroad, the students traveled to other regions of Italy and went to events with their program coordinators. Classes and work ran Monday through Thursday which left their weekends open for traveling.

“On Fridays, the Doctors in Italy program would host excursions for us,” Luna-Martinez said. “One day, we went to a lake and another day we went to the Colosseum. We went to Perugia and to a chocolate factory, which had the best chocolates I’ve ever had.”

Throughout the five weeks, they got to experience all Italy had to offer while still studying medicine. The environment the Doctors in Italy program creates is one meant to keep them excited and comfortable throughout their whole trip. The program coordinators even set up family dinners on Mondays and Thursdays to help students get to know each other, the program and Italy itself.

This helped ease some of Archer’s fears about feeling alone while doing the program in Italy.

Qiana Archer and Britney Black pose with some fellows from other universities. Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

Archer (second from left) poses with some fellows from other universities.
Photo courtesy of Qiana Archer

“I didn’t want to go over there and be very alone, by myself and walking around by myself. It was my first time in Italy,” Archer said. “We all kind of came together as a group and decided to go to dinners and things together, outside of the program, to help get to know each other better.”

There are many opportunities for scholarships and grants to help fund this trip. Applicants need to write essays for some, while others they qualify for by filling out an application and submitting their grades. Luna-Martinez thinks it is a great experience for anyone in the medical field looking to try something new.

Traveling to the coliseum is a right of passage for every Roman tourist.

“I was a little hesitant to do this program because it is in a whole other country,” Luna-Martinez said. “But I took the opportunity to do something. You never know when you might get this opportunity again. Don’t be afraid to take that risk because you never know what you may be missing.”

The Doctors in Italy study abroad fellowship program summer 2022 applications are now open and you can find them, along with more information, on their website.

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