Sophie Wang

on secondment to MesLab at Sant’Anna Pisa, Italy

February 2020-…

From la dolce vita to casa dolce casa

“We might not be as famous as Britney (yet!) but we can confirm that indeed the cool thing about being a HealthPros Fellow is traveling… across seas, like to Canada and stuff.”

– Mircha Poldrugovac and Damir Ivankovic, 2019 (HealthPros fellows)

In early February I moved to Pisa to start my month secondment at the Management and Healthcare Laboratory in Sant’Anna. Little did I know that the dolce vita that I was looking forward to experiencing will soon enough turn into a strict order to stay at casa dolce casa.

Having started my collaboration with behavioral science experts here at the MesLab virtually since last summer, I was very excited to work with the team in person. Working with a group of experts that lead the performance management of Tuscany public hospitals really opened my eyes to how the best Italian regional healthcare system functions and current challenges on the ground. It also provided more context to the work I lead in better understanding determinants of antibiotic prescribing decisions among Tuscan physicians.

The first month in the office with my colleagues was a truly immersive cultural experience! From the lunch time recipes exchange to learning about the social faux pas of drinking any sort of coffee containing milk in the afternoon, I felt the hospitality, warmth and friendliness that Italians are known for the world over – which really carried me through what was to come. It feels like the epidemic crept up on us, but when it arrived, everything happened all at once in full force.

As I write this, we are in the 6th week of Italy’s lock-down. I came across a New York Times article that summarized the timeline of decrees in Italy. The clarity in the summary of events that unfolded here in Italy was in sharp contrast to the confusion and uncertainty that I recall during the initial weeks. The past weeks has been a little surreal where the only sounds you hear on the street is silence, cats meowing or sirens. As Spring arrives, I have been enjoying waking up to birds chirping for a change! Upon reflecting on the last weeks of lockdown, I’ve learned to better appreciate this new pace of life, to adjust to a new model of working while staying connected to colleagues, and to be intentional in practicing gratitude.

This has been one of the most memorable trips that I have had, for reasons more than one. I feel privileged to have experienced such hospitality and warmth from locals here during such an unprecedented and devastating time in the Italian history. Through all the uncertainty, one thing I know for sure is that I will be back!

Arrivederci Italia!