Preparing for a Pandemic: How a JWU Education Made the Difference

Today’s doctor’s offices look much different than those of only a few months ago. Patients are driving up to tents in their cars to get tested for COVID-19, masks on, while medical professionals approach in gear reminiscent of HAZMAT suits. However, despite the setting, those hard-working men and women remain smiling and ready to help.

Medici and a coworker in a COVID-19 testing tent

Peter Medici ’20 is one of those smiling faces behind a face shield. Despite shifts that can stretch past 11 hours, dreary early spring weather conditions, and risk of exposure to the virus, he knows this is the profession for him.

Medici found Johnson & Wales while looking for Physican Assistant schools close to his hometown in Exeter, RI. In addition to the impressive Biology and Public Health programs, he was also recruited to play on the men’s volleyball team. “I was really looking for a school that had both athletic and academic importance to me,” Medici recalls. “The biology program really stood out in terms of my goals for the future, and when I went for the open house, I really just felt like it was a good program that I could see myself in.”

It was never a question for Medici that he’d end up in the medical profession. “I've always found myself being drawn to helping people,” he says. “I really think that a career in the healthcare field is what I want to do in terms of helping people, and seeing them get from a place where they need help to a place of security and confidence.”

Going into his junior year, Medici realized that he was on track to graduate early. Instead of kicking back and taking advantage of free time, he decided to challenge himself and add another major in Health Science. “I had to take a class with Dr. Rosenthal called Determinants of Health, which is one of the first classes you take at the health science student,” Medici says. “We were talking after class one day and she suggested that I apply for an internship opportunity with the SEOW.” The State Epidemiology and Outcomes Workgroup leads data-driven planning and decision-making for the purposes of state and community-level planning for prevention of substance use and abuse.

Medici took her up on her offer and began work, which spanned across the entire year. “Essentially, it compares the data from all of New England to the state of Rhode Island in terms of marijuana, alcohol and tobacco use in teens and adolescents,” Medici says. “And then we use that data to inform efforts to lower the areas where we're having problems.”

Medici's volleyball portrait

Soon after, Medici began working at South County Hospital urgent care. Before the pandemic, Medici served as a medical technician and scribe. He would assist the physicians and the providers in procedures and perform EKGs and other tests as needed. Now, however, his duties have expanded to assisting doctors outside in the tent, testing for COVID-19. At first, it was a little nerve wracking, but Medici has learned on the fly and is very comfortable with it now.

“We have adapted our ways of seeing patients that have respiratory symptoms,” Medici says. “We do telemedicine for the respiratory patients, so we will have them do everything over the phone, and then if they do need the COVID swab they drive around back and we do that in their car.”

Medici credits his time at JWU for preparing him to deal with this unprecedented situation. “I think there are so many classes that we take, like the lab-based sciences, that coincide with clinical aspects of healthcare,” he says. “In the microbiology lab class that we take, we test for different resistances of antibiotics and it's really kind of a full circle experience.”

Between his experience at JWU and his clinical work in the field, Medici feels confident that he is ready to apply to PA schools in the next year. “Having that prior knowledge from JWU has prepared me and made me more confident in this job opportunity and where I want to go in the future,” he says.

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He credits his ability to pivot and remain organized with his experience as a student athlete. “I think being a student athlete has taught me a lot about prioritizing,” he says. “It really taught me how to be part of a team and be a leader.”

Treating patients during a pandemic is certainly taxing and can be physically and mentally exhausting. However, Medici has never been more confident in his career choice. “It's only made me more excited to get into the field because you learn so much, and everyone has to adapt on the fly,” he says. “Both the Biology and Health Science classes made me confident in the clinical setting. I think working through this is definitely something that I will I have to share with my future generations.”