Visit to Florence Advances Student's Experience in Health Care

Maybe sharing an apartment with a group of seven art students from Kent State University had something to do with it. When second-year College of Medicine student Megan Bennett attended the Florence (Italy) Summer Institute—the first NEOMED student ever to do so—she made sure she took plenty of time to soak up the art and architecture of Florence, along with learning about the Italian health care system.

As part of an art history course she took through the program, Bennett traveled to historic locations in London and Rome as well as in Florence, visiting many churches along the way. “I just couldn’t miss the opportunity to truly experience Europe during my stay,” Bennett said. “It was nice to change things from my usual classwork and step away from science to enjoy the arts. It was awe-inspiring to always be surrounded by works of art that are thousands of years old.”

Another, different, highlight of her trip was “scrubbing in” for the first time to witness a gall bladder removal. Bennett also visited the first pharmacy in recorded history, reporting that she was pleased to see it was community-based and shared other similarities with the new Ritzman Pharmacy on NEOMED’s campus.

Bennett attended classes during the week and spent two intensive days learning one-on- one from a renowned nephrologist, George Benjamin, M.D. Her time with the physician was eye-opening, said Bennett. “He taught me about the Italian health care system and I quickly learned how different it is than what we have in the U.S.,” Bennett said. “All Italian citizens receive an insurance card when they are born and can receive care anywhere when they travel throughout the country.”

Her lessons from Dr. Benjamin weren’t the only culture shock she experienced in Florence.

“They do not have HIPPA laws like we do. I was shocked to see patient files spread everywhere throughout the emergency room,’’ she said. “It made me nervous just thinking what would happen if you came across that back home!”

The month-long Florence Summer Institute is held in partnership with Kent State University. Program organizers are considering expanding it in the summer of 2017 so that more students can have the same experience as Bennett. As for her, she is thankful for the experience and the lessons learned as she continues her journey to become a family physician in a rural setting.

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