Alumna Miiah Sutton reflects on her Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program experience

Miiah Sutton, a La Verne, California native who earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry (emphasis in biochemistry) from the University in the spring of 2021, recently participated in the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program.

The Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program features a two- to five-week short-term study abroad program in Rome and Milan. This fellowship program provides all-inclusive tuition with 40 to 90 hours shadowing multiple medical specialists at top international hospitals. The program is developed in collaboration with Doctors in Italy, a prestigious network of top doctors and hospitals working across the county, promoting medicine’s internationalization through technology and education.

Participating in the program gave Sutton a new perspective on the medical field and an appreciation for a different culture.

“My overall experience with the program was very eye-opening, not only with the medical side and how foreign doctors approach to medicine but also with experiencing the different cultures of everyone in Rome,” said Sutton.

Seeing Black doctors in her hometown hospitals was a rarity as a child. So rare that she couldn’t fathom becoming one despite having the desire to pursue the profession. The fellowship program and her support system encouraged her that despite a lack of representation, she could accomplish her dreams one day.

“Growing up in California, I didn’t see doctors that looked like me. Therefore, I didn’t believe I could be a doctor for a long time. This opportunity showed me that if I put my mind to it, I could get anywhere I desired. Also, it proved that I have people behind me supporting me every step of the way. This opportunity holds weight.”

Not only did the fellowship program give her a chance to pursue her dreams, but it also presented situations for her to grow and develop as a healthcare professional by teaching her the value of adapting to new surroundings.

“It allowed me to learn to adjust and adapt to different social norms in the operating room and clinical settings. Of course, the patient dictates how comfortable they feel with a student in the room, so that lesson taught me to be conscious of some doctors being more receptive to questions during the process than others. For example, during a surgical procedure, some doctors wouldn’t allow questions during the procedure, but they would rather you write your questions down and ask them later. Other doctors would not only allow questions but also would ask you questions about the procedure to ensure you’re gaining an understanding of what is happening. I’ve always been inquisitive, so this was something I was glad to learn.”
Sustaining her confidence and appreciating her place along the journey are also leaps that Sutton took while in the program.

“This experience also helped me to be confident about where I am in my journey to medicine. I was the oldest student and the only student in a graduate program, so it would’ve been easy to compare my progress to the progress of other students. Yet, as time progressed, I realized God helped me get into this position for a reason. I experienced the healthcare system in another country, and I made connections and was advised by several doctors. I gained a new perspective through this experience I can take with me as I pursue medicine.”

Sutton recommends the program to other aspiring medical professionals.

“This program is a fantastic way to gain medical experience. It gives students experience in the operating room, clinics, and labs while providing group excursions for students to explore Italy. This was a one-of-a-kind experience. The knowledge combined with the different day-to-day encounters will never be replaced.”