Students explore origins of medicine during study-abroad trip to Italy

Students explore origins of medicine during study-abroad trip to Italy

Students from West Virginia University recently completed a trip to Florence, Italy as part of the School of Medicine’s Immunology and Medical Microbiology Class: Origins of Western Medicine.

The students were part of an interdisciplinary group from majors including immunology and medical microbiology, neuroscience, exercise physiology, nursing, biomedical engineering and pre-pharmacy.

Kelly Collins, Ph.D., vice chair of the Microbiology, Immunology, and Cell Biology department, oversaw the trip. She says it helped students better appreciate the importance of how medical discoveries and scientific innovations can treat disease and improve human health.

Students visited the following sites while on their trip.

  • Sacred Hermitage of Camaldoli - A monastery established in 1,100 that established an "ancient pharmacy." The monks used surrounding plants in the forest to create medicines to treat ailments.
  • Padua, Italy - University of Padua where students visited the first anatomical theatre and learned about significant innovations that helped progress science and medicine during the Renaissance period, The Museum of The History of Medicine, and the Padua Botanical Garden, which was the first botanic garden associated with a university. Many of the plants there were planted to be studied and to understand how they could be used to treat diseases.
  • Cinque Terre, Italy – The group toured four small towns in the Cinque Terre and discussed how challenging it is to provide emergency medicine in remote regions like this.

“The Renaissance period was a time of enlightenment for art and literature, but also for science and medicine,” Collins said. “This is when we progress science and medical interventions. Italy, and Florence specifically, were considered the center of this movement.”

Attendees said they were able to appreciate how the progression of art during the Renaissance period enabled detailed artist renderings of the human body.

“This was essential because, during this time, human dissections were just beginning to be permitted and performed,” Collins explained. “Having first-hand opportunities to explore the origins of medicine gives our students a unique perspective as practitioners, clinicians, and future providers.”

For more information on education abroad opportunities at WVU, visit

For more information on IMMB, visit