School of Biology Professor Tammy Welchert compares medical shadowing with going to prom. Shadowing is much like finding the right dress because students need to try on several kinds of career paths to ensure the right “fit.” For one student, that “fit” was found through the Atlantis Project.
Sophomore Elisabeth Laundy spent a week and half of winter break shadowing in Greece. While she wasn’t sure what specific area of medicine she wanted to go into — or if she would come away still wanting to be a doctor at all — Laundy knew her interests were in helping underserved and impoverished people around the world.
“I’ve grown up for the past nine years going to a kind of dangerous place in Mexico to do missions and medical stuff,” Laundy said. “Before that, I was actually interested in veterinary medicine, but then I went to Mexico and saw the need for doctors and resources down there, and so that kind of sparked an interest.”
Twenty-five hours of shadowing later, Laundy is now completely secure in her path to becoming a doctor and is strongly considering emergency medicine, thanks to a mentor she shadowed in Greece.
The chief of ER taught Laundy valuable aspects of the department, like how to triage patients. One of her favorite memories from the trip was during an on-call night where she shadowed him until 2 a.m.
“He just explained things really well,” Laundy said. “He walked me through some of the diagnostic tests. Also, they’re on call once every few nights. I was able to go there, and it was chaos because they are the only public hospital, so everyone goes there. I like the chaos… which is weird because I really like organization, but I thrive off of that chaos.”
Laundy said the doctor knew and taught her a lot, and she left with a much better understanding of ER medicine and the basics of it.
For students seeking pre-health experience, Laundy came across Atlantis Project by simply googling international shadowing opportunities. She decided on Greece to observe how healthcare professionals interact with refugees at the public hospital.
Opening up the website, students like Laundy find helpful resources in starting the application process. From current programs and scholarships, to an entire page meant for the eyes of curious and worried parents, the Atlantis Project strives to be transparent about what it offers and how it can help – complete with a “live chat” window.
Professor Welchert traveled to Spain last spring with the Atlantis Project to learn about their programs. She visited student housing, toured hospitals, met with hospital administrations and talked to current students participating with the Atlantis Project.
“I feel much more comfortable discussing the program and encouraging students to apply when I am more knowledgeable and feel like it’s safe from my own experience,” Welchert said.
Laundy said the experience was well worth it. In addition to gaining shadowing experience, finding a specialty of interest and confirming her career goals, Laundy also walked away with another support system.
“I felt really lucky with all the students I was with,” Laundy said, “especially the people I was with in my apartment because we all got along really well. That added to the experience because we were able to go out and explore together.”
For students considering the benefits of both national and international shadowing, Welchert offers a benefit that international shadowing can hold for a future healthcare professional.
“The actual shadowing itself is not much different,” Welchert said. “But shadowing in the U.S. versus other countries can provide greater insight for students considering a career in healthcare.”
“Think about how many people from foreign countries live in or visit the U.S.,” Welcher said. “They have come from very different health care systems and may bring diseases or health issues that aren’t commonly seen here. Having an understanding of different health care systems may help doctors better relate to their patients.”