My personal experience of undergoing a Research Exchange coordinated by the International Federation of Medical Students Associations.
In this article I would be detailing my account of participating in a research exchange provided by my Medical Institution in Bulgaria and the International Federation of Medical Students Association (IFMSA). Furthermore, I want to highlight the importance of continually adding value to your professional resume as a future Medic. It is a hectic experience collecting work experience for your Personal Statement as a prospective medical student, but the drive has to continue once in Medical School to attain more experience that will help to lay the foundation of your career. I hope that this may help someone, especially for those who study abroad and may find it a challenge seeking opportunities!
What is the Organization about?
The International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations (IFMSA) is a non governmental organization representing associations of medical students. It is a body of member organizations from 127 countries. The goal of the Federation is to serve society and medical students all over the world by providing Medical Education, facilitating Professional and Research exchanges and promoting humanitarian ideals and medical ethics amongst the medical community.
What does the Research Exchange consist of?
The IFMSA Research Exchange is a research project that provided me with the opportunity to deepen my knowledge in Respiratory Medicine. My project was a laboratory research project entitled “Non-invasive Markers of airway inflammation in the assessment of the efficacy of pharmacological treatment in asthma”. In a nutshell, the project was looking at how effective drugs are in the treatment of Asthma for patients! The project was held in Italy at the University of Pisa for a month. I was assigned a mentor (a Biomedical Sciences Master graduate) who outlined the basic principles of research to ensure that I was not overwhelmed. Furthermore, by God’s grace I was blessed with the opportunity to undergo daily work experience shadowing a Respiratory Medical Doctor at the Government hospital in Pisa – Ospedale Santa Chiara.
My experience and what I did.
Each day at the laboratory was outlined for 9am-1pm Monday to Thursday. I assisted my mentor with her project which was coerced by the Government Hospital. The project was being managed by Respiratory consultants who wanted to improve medication for those who have Asthma. This was done by analysing sputum samples (collected from patients who had respiratory disorders) under the microscope, and assessing the inflammatory cells to see if there was an improvement in their prognosis. There was a huge mass of data recording which had to be done but it was very exciting! It was also a great benefit to see theoretical knowledge being applied in the medical field. Outside of those hours, I went to the Respiratory Clinic to shadow a specialist. We discussed a patient’s history and the management of their disease. In addition, I was able to assist on physically examining patients by auscultation and inspection. Furthermore; I met a family of medical and biomedical students during the exchange project from different parts of the world. We shared great interests and were able to travel to different parts of Italy, during our free time, at a ridiculously cost-effective price! This included; Cinqueterre, Florence, Lucca and Siena!
My advice and tips for undergoing a Research/Professional Exchange.
Go forth with purpose! It is heavily important to research the academic institution, country and city which you want to learn from. Have an understanding of the principles of the speciality you are choosing and what you wish to gain that would expand your knowledge. Be humble; as a Medical student, it is okay to not know anything. Push yourself to be a learner and ask crazy questions during your stay which would challenge your thinking! I undertook the research exchange whilst being a third year medical student feeling like an agent dressed up in hospital clothes, it was a learning curve but it was a blessing. Have fun; be steadfast in your joy and enjoy the experience of meeting Professional Medical Consultants, Researchers, Medical Students and people from the community – there is a valuable lesson to be learnt from everybody.
The opportunity served a purpose in me having the experience of going to another country for an extremely low price in comparison to other projects. In addition, I was able to experience the lessons that would be gained from an elective – this is because my Institution abroad does not include an Elective in its curriculum. This year, I am hoping to take part in a professional exchange in the field of Cardiology!
Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post!
Written by Jade Okene