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HOW TO SHADOW A DOCTOR AS A PREMEDICAL STUDENT IN GREECE

How to Shadow a doctor as a Premedical Student in Greece

Shadowing a doctor as a premedical student 

Becoming a doctor is one of the most personally fulfilling, exciting, challenging, and financially rewarding professions for those who truly hear the calling. Doctors are among the most respected and admired members of society. They are real-life miracle workers, healing the sick and saving lives through the studied application of medical science. Through their hard-earned skills, they are among the only professionals whose every action can indeed have life-or-death consequences. And because of their central role in modern society, doctors’ services will always be in high demand. This article discusses the path to shadowing a doctor through programs with Philotimo Med Abroad.

 How to shadow a doctor

As the statistics coldly reflect, the simple truth is that not everyone has the intellectual ability and perseverance to become a doctor. Many believe they are fully aware of the immense challenges, triumphs, frustrations, and even horrors in medicine, having gleaned them from reading books and articles or watching television shows and movies. 

But the truth is that only through immersing yourself in a real-world medical practice can you obtain a realistic snapshot of the life-altering things that being a doctor encompasses.

Shadowing a real-world physician, surgeon, or other practicing medical professional throughout their day provides irreplaceable firsthand experience, giving you a live-fire snapshot of what the life of a medical practitioner is like.

Philotimo Med Abroad  Internship Programs are designed for premedical and medical students. Most of our participants are premed and trying to dive into the world of medicine. The program follows the AAMC guidelines of 20+ hours a week of strict observation. Students can choose their shadowing department and specialty, and during this observatory practice, one may begin to realize whether this is the right career for them.

Most of our programs are conducted from Monday thru Thursday, from 9:00 am to 2:00 pm. We understand the program’s intensity and the multifaceted dynamics accompanying a first-time shadowing opportunity or travel to a foreign country. Therefore, Philotimo Med Abroad has planned weekly excursions to help offset the heavy workload with carefully created, essential destinations experienced within the host city. 

The Shadowing program occurs in the city where Hippocrates lived during his final years and subsequent demise. The city of Larissa is full of history, and what better place for a medical student to learn medicine than this Jewel? 

We are affiliated with the University Hospital of Larissa and the Faculty of Medicine, School of Health and Sciences at the University of Thessaly. Both are well known for teaching future medical students from Europe and America. The University Hospital of Larissa is a state-of-the-art facility managed by doctors willing to teach and explain the step-by-step processes coveted by student participants.

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Choosing the right specialty

For a good cause, most medical schools recommend that applicants spend at least 40 hours shadowing a doctor who practices in the specialty they seek certification. An essential benefit of shadowing doctors is the ability to experience a variety of medical subdisciplines. For example, the fast-paced, adrenaline-fueled, and often-shocking day of a big-city trauma surgeon is so vastly different from the laid-back sterility of a rural internist that they might as well be members of other professions. Therefore, it is crucial to understand the stark differences between the many specialties that fall under the umbrella of being a doctor.

Even the contrasts in the daily routines of a pediatrician versus a pediatric oncologist may prove surprising and profound. Those with certain personality types will be well-suited to one practice area but not another. And nearly all medical schools recommend that students choose their specialty earlier in their medical studies.

For this reason, you should carefully consider what specialty areas suit you and then pursue opportunities for shadowing a doctor in the given field. Creating a written list of the specialties in which you’re interested in one effective technique. 

You can also use any notes you compiled during the shadowing experience to create comparative summaries of the subdisciplines. And these can help in creating compelling admissions applications.

Making sure medicine is truly your calling

The stark reality is that over 70 percent of premed students never don a white coat, and as many as 50 percent of all premed applicants receive rejections from all schools they apply. This fact indicates that the medical profession, apart from demanding nearly superhuman effort from those who ultimately make it to residency and beyond, is among the most highly selective of any academic field. Combined, only 10 percent of college students who believe they want to make medicine their life’s work will become practicing doctors.

While such high ultimate dropout rates may, on the one hand, indicate a high degree of exclusivity and professional cachet, it is also an indicator that far too many pre-college students have unrealistic expectations about what becoming a doctor involves. The best way to maximize the chance that a person embarking on a medical career track will ultimately complete it is to shadow a doctor at the earliest possible point in that person’s educational arc. The best time to shadow a doctor is often when the student is still in high school.

Premedical interning can drive home some of the less commonly acknowledged realities of being a doctor. For instance, while the media often focuses on the high points of the profession, medicine has its limits. And sometimes, those limits are both stark and heartbreaking. As a doctor, you will see countless examples of people for whom even optimal medical care proves insufficient. Interning with a doctor for even 100 hours will likely drive this point home like no other activity. It is, therefore, worth considering that finding opportunities within a busy hospital can make for a more robust interning experience, both in terms of exposure to a wide variety of cases and looking very strong on an admissions application.

Throughout your premedical internship, you will likely experience firsthand the realities of dealing with end-of-life issues and the emotional weight that goes with them. While nearly everyone who aspires to become a doctor is driven to help people, many will eventually find out they don’t have the emotional fortitude to handle difficult situations. For example, sincere compassion and empathy are necessary when speaking with the parents of a child who is dying of cancer but for whom further aggressive treatment is contraindicated- which is not thoroughly taught in medical academia.

Being a doctor requires strong empathy and mental endurance, preventing the emotionally charged and often unfortunate circumstances surrounding medical care from negatively affecting your work. Interning with a doctor for a couple of hundred hours may not conclusively prove that you do have what it takes to make it over the long term in the profession. But it will usually serve as an excellent early filter to weed out those who don’t possess the right stuff.

Another reality that will become apparent after interning in a hospital or a general practice is that the things that comprise the ordinary course of a physician’s day tend to involve experiences that are very much unique to medicine. As a result, many things that become a matter of course for a physician would appear shocking, brutal, disgusting, and even horrifying to laypeople.

For this reason, physicians tend to discover that they must carefully filter their answers to questions like, “So, what was the highlight of your day?” Describing an unsuccessful debridement of a gangrenous toe over dinner or the catastrophic intestinal damage suffered by a gunshot victim and the interventions both injuries required is far beyond the comfort zone of most laypeople.

The fact that doctors inhabit a world for as many as 100 hours per week, to which most people have little or no ability to relate, means that doctors’ social lives often revolve around other medical professionals. It is, therefore, no exaggeration to say that many doctors’ entire lives are centered around medicine. Even when not on a shift, they socialize with other medical professionals, reliving the week’s highlights and talking shop.

While being highly driven in one’s career and seeking to associate with those to whom one best relates are perfectly good, healthy, and natural, some people will find the constricted social life that results from such passionate hyper-focus on one field off-putting. Therefore, during a premedical internship, it is a good idea to pay close attention to whether you feel energized by the constant presence in a medical setting and around medical professionals or whether it is draining.

Finally, if you are sure you want to dedicate yourself to becoming a doctor, interning with a doctor early in your medical career will maximize your chances of being accepted to medical school. Interning proves to the admissions board that you are serious about your chosen life’s work and are willing to go the extra mile to excel at your studies and become a top-flight practitioner. And getting a solid letter of recommendation from an established physician is one of the most important steps to being accepted to medical school.

One important thing to remember is that you should request a letter of recommendation from any doctor you shadow as soon as your time has concluded. Doctors in population-dense areas may see thousands of different people each year. Getting a letter of recommendation from them while their interactions with you are still fresh on their mind is critical if you want the rich, detailed recommendation letter that medical-school admissions boards seek. It almost cannot be overemphasized that handing a glowing letter of recommendation from a locally respected doctor to any admissions board will vastly improve your chances of acceptance.

 About Philotimo Med Abroad 

Philotimo Med Abroad provides global internship opportunities in Greece at university hospitals and private clinics for students and clinicians looking to broaden their horizons and experience healthcare internationally. 

Our student participants have the unique opportunity to shadow healthcare providers while enjoying their school breaks in Greece, participating in fun activities, cultural immersion projects, and excursions. Philotimo Med Abroad is here to provide the tools you need to help further your career and expand your opportunities in healthcare.

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