Interpreting Medicine: Deaf Student Shadows Doctors in Italy
Johnson Scholarship Foundation provides support for Gallaudet University’s summer internship programs that enable students to study abroad. Nthabeleng MacDonald, an undergraduate at Gallaudet, wrote the following account of her summer with the Doctors in Italy Fellowship program for JSF’s Giving Matters blog.
In May 2022, I went to Rome, Italy, for my shadowing fellowship with the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program for two weeks. The Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program is a medical shadowing program for students interested in pursuing a career in medicine or on a path to becoming a medical doctor. The program enables students to learn about healthcare and the typical day in the life of medical professionals by shadowing English-speaking physicians across a variety of specialties, including surgery, medicine, orthopedics, cardiology, oncology pediatrics, emergency medicine, and beyond.
The shadowing aspect of the program was an incredible experience for me. It was an eye-opening experience. I believe that I was the first deaf fellow to participate in this international program. Before coming to Italy, I had a fixed mindset that I would face many communication barriers as a Deaf fellow in the program. I was prepared for that. I expected that the Italian doctors wouldn’t want to interact with me or believe in me because I am Deaf. I was also prepared for that. I decided to come to Italy anyway. It turned out that I was wrong. The doctors there were 100% supportive and believed in me. I had the opportunity to observe and talk with so many doctors about their specialties. They walked me through every surgical procedure and patient case to make sure I understood everything that was happening in the operating room/exam room. I have so much respect for the doctors there, and I felt respected in return during my time there. My interpreters were top-notch. They worked very hard to make sure I understood everything. They even did their medical research to make sure the medical interpretation was accurate. I couldn’t have done this without them and Gallaudet University.
I was really surprised to see the way I carried myself so well and became fearless and confident in my passion for medicine throughout the program. I shadowed a variety of specialties, including vascular surgery, orthopedic surgery, general surgery, anesthesiology, ENT, biomedical engineering, etc. The patients I saw, the doctor-patient relationships, and what doctors do are some of the reasons why I want to become a doctor. I learned a lot in just two weeks!
There are not many deaf doctors in the world right now, and I want to fill that gap on top of the several important reasons for wanting to become a doctor myself. As of right now, I want to become a neuropsychiatrist, specializing in child and adolescent neurology and psychiatry.
Besides being a fellow in the program, I had the opportunity to roam around Rome in the afternoons. I ate great Italian food and tried their famous gelato! I also got to go on an excursion with the other fellows and visited the beautiful Tivoli, an hour away from Rome.
I am very excited to see where medicine takes me next as I continue my journey to becoming a doctor. I am now in my final year of undergrad. After graduation I plan to take a gap year before attending medical school. During my gap year, I hope to work as a post-baccalaureate fellow in a program within my desired fields. This is only the beginning.
Gallaudet students should travel and live abroad because it will give them a broader perspective on the world and help them step out of their comfort zone. Immerse yourself in a new culture and always keep an open mind. You never know what you will learn about yourself, your surroundings, and your passion(s) abroad! Thank you Doctors in Italy and Gallaudet University for this wonderful opportunity I will never forget!