September 24, 2020

My Experience in The Fulbright Post-Degree Academic Training

In this blog post, Alumnus Zeyad Tuffaha (Foreign Student Scholarship 2017-2020) shares his experience of studying in the U.S., as well as the year he spent at The Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston as part of his post-academic training.

Back in 2018, and during my Fulbright Scholarship studying at Tulane University in New Orleans, I learned of the possibility of getting a one-year administrative fellowship at a hospital to complement my master’s in health administration. The ability to request an extension and stay in the United States for one year is part of the post-degree academic training program available for Fulbright grantees upon approval. The Deland Fellowship that I applied for is very competitive and hard to get, but I thought I needed to try and maximize my experience in the U.S. before heading back home to Jordan. I was thrilled to hear that I got the Fellowship at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital that is located in Boston, Massachusetts. I could not have been happier and moved to Boston for an experience of a lifetime, and it did not disappoint. I was learning so much and making many friends, and then COVID-19 hit in the early Spring of 2020.

Zeyad (right) pictured with the other Deland Fellows of 2019 - 2020, Susannah Rudel (left) and Sherry Yu (middle).

 On the website of The Birgham and Women's hospital, they describe the Deland Fellowship I received as follows:

The Deland Fellowship is a one-year administrative experience which prepares professionals to be leaders of health care institutions. All throughout the year, Fellows are exposed to the operations of an academic and community-based medical center. They develop the skills which are fundamental to their professional development as healthcare professionals. The Fellowship is a distinctive and unique learning opportunity which is well suited to mid-career applicants who may have had previous experiences in related fields.

My administrative fellowship culminated with the COVID-19 response work. I have never imagined such an ending to an amazing year in Boston. The two other fellows and I had our projects put on hold once the crisis hit the U.S. and the state of Massachusetts, and we were reassigned different roles. The first role I had was to support the communications team. It was an interesting role because the team had a different perspective on the operations at the hospital and I learned a lot about communication channels and making decisions that impact the whole organization. I barely settled in before I was reassigned again to a high priority project; the Crisis Standards of Care. Those standards and policies were being put in place to have a guidebook and training once the hospital had less critical resources available to support the patients who needed them. Tough decisions would have to be made on who gets the critical resources to maximize years of life. This happened in New York and Italy, and the hospital as well as the state wanted to be ready in case we got to that stage. My role supported the administrative part and helped clinicians adapt to the process as they would have been the ones making these tough decisions. Fortunately, we did not get to a point where we needed to trigger it, and the standards were shelved.

Zeyad (right) with Deland Fellow, Susannah Rudel (left)

Finally, I moved on to a more cheerful role managing all the food donations we get at the hospital. The community has been very generous in feeding health care workers and were sending us thousands of snacks and meals. In total, we distributed over 120,000 items in 5 weeks including salads, hot foods, snacks, and drinks, to thousands of hardworking healthcare workers. It was a massive operation and I am very proud of our effort.

Zeyad managing the food donations that were distributed as part of the COVID-19 response in supporting health care workers
The opportunity to add a year of experience in the U.S. to your academic studies could be a huge boost to your career. Plus, it extends your time in the U.S. to create more meaningful relationships, explore new places, and create a professional network.

It truly has been a fellowship within a fellowship. I have learned so much and formed a bond with the hospital and staff that I will cherish forever. I am grateful to have been a Fulbrighter doing my post academic training here during this crisis, and I am proud to have played my part in helping the hospital respond to this pandemic. If you are a Fulbrighter and eligible for a post academic year, I highly recommend it. The opportunity to add a year of experience in the U.S. to your academic studies could be a huge boost to your career. Plus, it extends your time in the U.S. to create more meaningful relationships, explore new places, and create a professional network. The application process was straight forward; the difficult part was finding the work opportunity that complies with the Fulbright requirements. But with a little research and patience, you can find the right opportunity. Amideast who administers this part of the program on behalf of Fulbright were very supportive and answered all my questions throughout the process, so do not be afraid to reach out and ask for guidance. Start thinking about the potential additional year for post academic training during the first year of studies to leave time for the application process. Early planning is always a good idea and the sooner you have a plan, the more time you will have to implement it.

My Fulbright experience is one I will remember forever. The time will pass quickly so make sure to make use of every moment and, most importantly, to enjoy it to the maximum.

Images used in this article are courtesy of Zeyad Tuffaha.

Additional information about the Deland Fellowship that Zeyad Tuffaha was part of were taken from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Website.

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