August 01, 2019

Fellowship in Portugal Opens Eyes to Multiple Medical Specialties

As a fellow with the Atlantis Clinical Fellowship in Portugal, Catherine Welch witnessed one of the most awe-inspiring moments in a woman’s life — becoming a mother.

“It was special to see the doctors working together as a team to not only safely deliver the babies despite some complications, but also comforting and encouraging the mother along the way,” Welch said. “It was truly amazing to see these two women become first-time moms.”

Welch earned a competitive merit scholarship to complete the Atlantis Clinical Fellowship, which provides physician shadowing in an international hospital setting in compliance with the Association of American Medical Colleges. The scholarship is awarded to less than 5% of Atlantis fellows.

A senior neuroscience major from Downingtown, Pennsylvania, Welch experienced global healthcare in a variety of specialties for at least 20 hours each week — which gave her tremendous insight into her career path as a physician assistant.

“I want to go to PA school instead of medical school because as a PA, I can work in any field I choose and also have the option to switch fields without any extra schooling,” Welch said. “In Portugal, I found that I enjoy consultation-like departments, where treatment was based more on the conversation between the physician and the patient.”

A psychology minor, Welch shared her vision for the future of American healthcare — a system that would place mental health alongside care for the physical body.

“In my merit scholarship interview, I was asked if I was given a billion-dollar grant to change one thing about American healthcare, what would it be,” Welch recalled. “I would require psychiatrists to be in every general doctor’s office. I would hope to normalize mental health checks as a form of preventative care.”

Welch wants to build a trusting relationship with her future patients, one where they feel safe and cared for — like the physicians she observed this summer in the labor and delivery department.

“I couldn’t help but note how special doctors are in our lives,” she said. “Not only do they provide necessary medical care, but they help us feel safe and are present for some life-changing moments.”