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Niarah Russell Shadows Doctors at Hospital in Greece

September 2017

Spelman Student Studies in GreeceSpelman health sciences major Niarah Russell, C'2020, had an experience of a lifetime this summer. She spent three weeks in Athens, Greece where she was afforded the opportunity to shadow physicians at Attikon University General Hospital, one of the city's main hospitals. Russell's  experience, made possible thanks to Atlantis, allowed her to interact with specialists in a variety of fields including: obstetrics and gynecology, oncology, general surgery, emergency medicine, and pediatrics.

Pursuing Medicine as a Vocation

The organizers of the prestigious fellowship believe that medicine is a vocation. "In order to more fully understand that vocation before committing to medical school, pre-med students should be exposed to the practice of medicine as often as possible. By participating in an Atlantis Fellowship, students spend 20+ hours per week shadowing doctors in multiple specialties in hospitals abroad. This high level of medical exposure affords students the opportunity to view medicine in action and guides them in their decision to continue to pursue medicine as a vocation," as stated on their website at

The Pennington, New Jersey native, who got a deeper understanding of what life as a physician entails, said the experience opened her eyes to the vast possibilities available to her in the health care field.

"While abroad, I was able to see and experience numerous medical procedures and patient care practices including Cesarean sections, sonograms, pediatric check-ups. I also witnessed and interacted with several terminally ill patients," said Russell.

In Her Own Words

Spelman Student  Niarah Russell in GreeceIn the gynecology department, I learned how to deliver a breech baby, read a sonogram, and determine the baby's Apgar score upon delivery. Additionally, I worked closely with a medical student named Tassos. Tassos was very helpful when it came to translation and teaching me and my peers various Greek words. In the later weeks of my fellowship, I spent time in pediatrics, emergency medicine and oncology. There I learned how to interpret an EKG, use a stethoscope and record vital signs.

The Power of a Liberal Arts Education

My liberal arts education really prepared me for the Atlantis fellowship. While abroad, I had many opportunities to use the knowledge I have obtained at Spelman. I recognized immediately that many of the skills I employed during the program  -- including critical-thinking and problem-solving skills, the ability to see the “big picture,” and a keen understanding of the importance of being a global citizen -- came from my educational experience here."

Spelman's Health Careers Program headed by Rosalind Gregory Bass, M.D. also contributed greatly to my success in Greece. The program educated me on a variety of topics including global health and health disparities, and I used the knowledge I gained from my experience on campus in the hospital.  Both the Health Careers Program and the Atlantis Project Fellowship have had a huge impact on me and are helping me fulfill me dreams.

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