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Undergraduate Research: health care and Bologna’s Muslim community

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Undergraduate Research; health care and Bologna’s Muslim community

 Maggie Palopoli is a third-year pre-med student at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tennessee with a major in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and a minor in Religious Studies. Maggie’s research focuses on healthcare in Italy and the influence of religion (Islam) on health and ethics.  Her research is funded by the Rhodes College merit based Buckman Scholarship.  Maggie is from Covington, Louisiana

The Spring Hill Italy Center has provided me the opportunity to pursue a directed undergraduate research project in Bologna that combines my passions for both health and interfaith. I think of my research project as a pinnacle in the arc of my education in which my role has shifted from a passive observer to an active participant where I am both the student and the teacher. While a large responsibility, the Italy Center has paired me with a research mentor who is a faculty member of SHC Italy Center.  My mentor, Dr. Alessandro Busca, is extremely valuable in helping to guide my research—he meets with me and helps me in the communication aspect of my research, connecting me with relevant resources in the city of Bologna and translating between English and Italian when necessary.

As a pre-med student at a liberal arts college, I was very attracted to the concept of studying and actively engaging with the interdisciplinary nature of health on a global scale. My research focuses on how well the Italian health system cares for migrants. Specifically, I’m interested in evaluating the health system in so far as it takes into account different religious and cultural medical ethical concerns of patients, particularly focusing on the Muslim migrant population in Bologna. I aim to measure this effectiveness by compiling a guideline of medical ethics (from primary literature research) and seeing how well the doctors follow these guidelines. In order to form this guideline I am looking at the relation between the ethical and the legal, how moral/religious biomedical ethics differs between religions, and how they differ with secular ethics.

In Italy, there are different settings in which people can receive care: 1) hospital setting (emergency medicine), 2) volunteer-based health centers, 3) family doctors/general practitioners at private and public clinics. At each of these different settings, I am interviewing health practitioners, administrators, and patients, asking questions guided by this medical ethics guideline. By hearing the perspective of both the patients and doctors separately, I hope to evaluate the overall quality of care provided, which will provide insights into the doctor-patient relationship, and ultimately, will show to what extent solidarity is achieved in the doctor-patient relationship within the Italian Health System. Additionally, this will set the framework I will use to propose a substantive model that finds where theory and practice converge in order to begin to improve medical training and practice. My project is an examination of the philosophy/ideology of the Italian Health System that is informed by personal experiences of patients and doctors in Bologna, and hopefully will offer a road map to reconnect the idea of health and justice (using religion as a mechanism for this reconnection).

Doing research in Bologna is allowing me to gain experience in learning how to independently navigate my studies in a foreign space, cultivate communication and leadership skills, and gain a deep sense of self-awareness by realizing my own creative possibility through academic and community engagement with my research.

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