Going Beyond the Classroom

Interning as a medical assistant at Illinois Valley Orthopedics (IVO) near his hometown of Arlington, Ill., last summer was personal for health science major Devin Soldati. “Growing up in a small town has taught me the importance and privilege of access to quality health care,” he said.

Rural living made it extremely difficult to find a health care job in a clinic willing to take a college student on for the summer, but Soldati’s persistence paid off when he met IVO’s office manager, Tara Salsman. She was happy to offer the internship because most pre-med students from that area don’t return — they seek employment opportunities in urban areas.

Soldati found that working with patients and physicians bolstered his resolve and commitment to his studies. “Being directly responsible for a portion of a patient’s care gave me a reality check during my first week that I needed to learn a lot and quickly,” he said.

While the work was difficult, he was thankful to the medical staff at IVO for their support and encouragement.

“Devin was excited, motivated and ambitious to learn each and every day,” said Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) Candace Ramirez. “Patients complimented him on his sincere and compassionate work ethic.”

Soldati credits his professors and coursework for preparing him for this experience, noting the most important and applicable lesson is the easiest and often most overlooked: listening.

“Patients need to feel like they are being respected and heard,” he said.

One of the highlights of his internship was being able to step out of the clinic for a day to shadow a knee replacement surgery.

“I was impressed at the surgeon’s deftness and composure and the effective communication of the operating room staff throughout each procedure. More importantly, I learned how a well-oiled medical team functions in this type of setting.”  

After having his head in a book studying medicine in school for so long, getting real-world experience provided a fresh perspective. “Long hours in the library can make one question their purpose and future, but that summer at IVO solidified my passion for entering the medical field and has caused me to double down on my efforts to achieve this goal,” Soldati added.

“I love that I got to interact with different types of people and gain perspectives from patients ages 1 to 101. It taught me to be aware of varying cultures and generations, be empathetic to their pain, respect them as individuals and treat them as more than just another fracture.”

This small-town internship also highlighted the health care disparities in rural areas, which is close to Soldati’s heart. “It inspired me to hone the skills required to address these inequalities and make a difference in the lives of those who need it most.” 

All Bradley students are encouraged to pursue experiential learning and career development through the Smith Career Center.

Emily Potts