COSAM News Articles 2022 August COSAM study abroad trip opens doors to medical procedures and lifelong connections

COSAM study abroad trip opens doors to medical procedures and lifelong connections

Published: 08/30/2022

By: Maria Gebhardt

Katie Cooper and Anna Traylor, academic advisors in the Office of Student Services in the College of Sciences and Mathematics, or COSAM, led a team of 25 students this summer to Italy for three weeks that created lasting memories and friendships.  

“Students were able to shadow doctors and see medical procedures up-close at the Campus Biomedico teaching hospital in Rome, which has cutting-edge equipment and physicians,” said Cooper.

The students gained valuable insight for medical school as well as personal growth.  

“It is extremely important to expose yourself to culture outside of your own country,” said Ariyanna I. Assad, currently a junior in COSAM. “It amplifies the experiences and helps you step outside of your own personal boundaries.”

Assad wrote in her post-trip reflections, “I was worried that my passion for medicine would no longer exist, and I would have to choose another life passion so late into college.”

However, Assad added that her anticipation to become a doctor and now even a surgeon is stronger after this experience.

She was able to watch multiple surgeries.

“I saw a triple bypass open heart surgery, hip, femur realignment and ACL surgery, a septoplasty, three tumors removed out of a jaw, a cataract removed out of an eye, a 10-pound fibroma removed off a women's uterus, and a hysterectomy, said Assad.

Ryan Mumford, a senior in COSAM, participated in the study abroad trip.

“I had an amazing experience being able to observe an operation that gave me an impressive perspective on the importance of helping patients stay healthy,” Mumford explained. “Doctors were removing an enlarged kidney of a patient that was four times larger than normal. Since this type of procedure might only happen once a year, it was an incredible opportunity for me to be able to experience it.”

Elizabeth Ledbetter, currently a senior in COSAM, recalled her time in the hospital.

“The study abroad experience confirmed that I want to go into surgery,” she said. “Each day, I was able to observe different surgeries and I am thankful to be able to get this hands-on experience in the best hospital in Italy.”

Her experience was memorable and helped her shift her desire to perform surgeries to help patients.

“For almost five hours, I was able to observe open heart surgery,” said Ledbetter. “The doctors took the time to tell the students what was going on and explained the procedures of placing the valve in the heart and restarting the patient’s heart.”

Ledbetter, whose father is a physician in an emergency room in Birmingham, told her that he never got to see a procedure like this from start to finish until he was in residency.

“It will stick with me that I have been given a chance to experience an entire surgery like this while I am still an undergraduate student,” Ledbetter added.

Cooper explained that the students had a lot of first-time experiences from using public transportation, traveling outside of the United States and shadowing doctors.

“This was the first time I actually saw a surgery being performed,” Krish Patel, now a junior in COSAM. “I have always been interested in neuroscience, but this trip helped to push me toward this specialty that fascinates me.”

Patel added that the experience as a younger student was very meaningful.

“Being able to participate in this study abroad program was enlightening. Since I have not taken the MCAT and am not applying to medical schools yet, it gave me an opportunity to take it all in and refine what I want to do in medicine,” Patel said.

Patel also shared how the doctors made a difference in his post-trip reflections.

“The doctors were all extremely friendly, so friendly that they would allow us to get extremely close to the patient that was being operated on,” he wrote. “I saw a cardiac bypass, tumor removal, thyroidectomy and even a gastric bypass.”

Once their shadowing was completed in the hospital in Rome, students had the flexibility to explore the beautiful city and well beyond.

Students went to Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Positano and even the Amalfi coast.

“Students being able to see the vertical city of Positano was an experience that they will never forget,” Cooper said. “It is like being in a real picture postcard.” 

The trip opened doors to future networking opportunities and collaborations.

“This trip also gave us an edge on connecting with our future networks,” Assad added. “I developed great friendships with students that I will continue my education and career with.”

Cooper reinforced the importance of the people on the trip.

“Students are connecting with their future peers in medical schools and in the medical profession,” said Cooper. “By participating in a study abroad experience, they are already building connections with students who they will be in medical school with and even work in hospitals and medical settings.”

She is looking forward to helping more students participate.

“I hope that these study abroad programs will continue to be offered and supported, and that we can provides more scholarships to those otherwise unable to go. The study abroad experiences push students outside of their comfort zone, help them learn more about themselves and are truly once in a lifetime,” Cooper added.

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