The Power of Presence

An immersive global healthcare program provided Health Sciences major Abby Agapito ‘24 with a new perspective on presence

While many travelers flock to the tourist sites in Rome or Florence when visiting Italy, Abby Agapito ’24 chose to spend her summer in the quieter city of Genoa interning with the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program. This physician-led program provides pre-med students from around the world with diverse, hands-on experiences within different healthcare models in real hospital settings. 

During this trip, Abby, who is majoring in Health Sciences, had the opportunity to shadow physicians and specialty doctors to experience how to be a better healthcare worker, as well as how to love and serve overlooked minorities in the healthcare system. 

Abby grew in confidence as she navigated the language barrier and learned the importance of presence over verbal communication with her patients. “I became hyper-aware of my facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice, which trained me to know what someone was trying to convey, even when words were not helping.” 

“One patient was anxiously waiting for a procedure. The anesthesiologists worried about her increasing heart rate – she was anxious. She grabbed my hand, looked at me, and despite not completely understanding her words, I could tell that she wanted me to hold her hand and remain with her. I nodded ‘yes,’ and she closed her eyes and was able to rest.” 

Abby was intrigued as she observed the doctors and hospital staff reflecting the parable of the Good Samaritan found in Luke 10. Jesus uses this story to encourage his listeners to show compassion, be present, and care for those in need, regardless of their background, faith, or social standing. In the hospital, Abby witnessed this Good Samaritan posture in action as medical professionals worked to diligently provide medical care to those in need. She was inspired by the way unconditional love was on display. 

“Healthcare should offer a haven marked by unconditional love where the sick and hopeless can find physical and mental healing.” In spite of the language barrier, Abby embraced the power of her presence and worked hard to display unconditional love to her patients. 

Experiencing this power of presence with the Doctors in Italy Fellowship Program has shaped Abby’s perspective on the medical field. “I am eager to be part of a holistic medical team that believes providing medical care is more than just finding a cure,” she shares. “My mission to serve with full commitment to excellence is driven by my life verse, ‘Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as though you were working for the Lord and not for people’ (Col. 3:23)." Abby found that while knowledge and strong communication are important, the power of presence and serving from a posture of love and humility are key to effective medical work.