Diving into Western European Healthcare

Have you ever imagined interning at hospitals in Europe? As pre-med students, shadowing physicians is a very important part of our journey towards getting into medical school. Atlantis is a pre-med fellowship designed to connect students with physicians, while also immersing them in the local culture. Sightseeing, trying out the local cuisine, and standing next to surgeons in the operating room are just a few of the awesome memories I have made abroad. I’ll admit I was a bit scared to travel at first because of the language and culture barrier, but I got accustomed pretty fast.

I got the opportunity to shadow in many different departments, such as Orthopedics, Ambulatory Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Pediatric Emergency and Cardiology, Nuclear Medicine, Hematology, Otolaryngology, Microbiology, Urology, Neurology, and Neurophysiology. I enjoyed all the departments, but more so the ones who allowed me to watch surgeries. I got very good insights from anesthesiologists and surgeons on the type of work they do, and I am considering pursuing a career in the surgical world.

My favorite part of this trip was being able to give back to the physicians who helped teach us about their day-to-day job. We did so by helping them improve their English skills. My friend and I even held joined classes together with our physicians. That really helped them see what their level of English was, and what they needed to work more on. In one session, we sat through a few consultations and while the doctor talked to the patient in Spanish, we translated the whole conversation in English. Moreover, we worked on medical vocabulary, pronunciation, and improving communication skills. This strategy worked very well, because it is what they truly are interested in improving, and that is a patient-doctor conversation.

Alisia Tumac

Dr. Maria Artigas, on the left, and Dr. Olga, on the right, spend most of their summers abroad in Kenya where they volunteer at a children’s hospital. Speaking English well helps them understand and communicate with their patients easily and improves doctor-patient trust. This is very important, especially since most of the patients are little children.

Overall, studying abroad was a memorable experience. Every patient has his or her own story to tell and they all need a compassionate and caring doctor to take care of them. The physicians I met are very empathic, passionate, and humble people. Moreover, the welcoming culture of Portugal and Spain made me feel like home and while I got to enjoy all the beautiful sights and the cuisine, I also got to make long-lasting friendships.

-Alisia Tumac, Independent study in Spain/Portugal, Summer 2019