This edition of our alumni spotlight shines a bright light on Dr. Andrea Bodale. Originally from Arizona, Andrea attended Baylor University, earning a B.S. in Biology. Constant family visits to the hospital coupled with her desire to help others feel heard, eventually led her to pursue a career in medicine. Dr. Bodale is now in her final year of residency as a Chief Family Medicine Resident at her top choice program!
What’s your academic background?
I went to Baylor University, got a B.S. in Biology, and then went straight onto medicine at Trinity!
What brought you into medicine?
My mom is the youngest of twelve, and my dad is the middle child of five, so I had a lot of aunts and uncles growing up. Within our Romanian culture, you’re very close to your family, so growing up, as sad as it is, I just remember my family being in and out of the hospital all the time. Some of my family had been affected by the radiation from Chernobyl, so several of them had malignant complications from that. My grandpa fought in World War ll, and had bullets left in his legs after standing in front of a firing squad. Although he lived a long, prosperous life, he developed refractory cellulitis in his older years from the bullets, eventually becoming septic and passing away. My dad was also involved in a hit and run accident, and almost got paralyzed from the neck down. Fortunately, he’s thriving now as he’s an Arizona Tennis Champion. I, myself, was hospitalized towards the end of my sophomore year in high school. I recall going to school with some nausea and bad abdominal pain, which prompted me to go to the nurse’s office. Based on my history alone, she said she thought I had appendicitis. To confirm her suspicion, I subsequently went to my doctor, who attributed the symptoms to simple gastroenteritis. However, the pain escalated so quickly that I went to the ER, and yet again, the doctors there still didn’t think it was appendicitis. After some insistence, it was determined that I actually did have appendicitis, and I was subsequently hospitalized. The next day, my appendix ruptured unfortunately, and I ended up developing peritonitis from it. Apparently, at one point, the doctors had told my parents to prepare for the worst. For my parents, this was a horrifying experience. I don’t remember much of it because I was asleep most of the time, but for a long time thereafter, I felt like I was just brushed off to the side. After that, I vowed that I would do my best to make people feel heard, and not let others have the kind of experience that I did.
Where did you match?
I just started my final year in residency and I am currently a Chief Family Medicine Resident at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center.
Did you match at your top choice?
Yes! This program was my dream. I didn’t want to go anywhere else.
Why was UTHSC your dream residency program?
I knew how rigorous the program was and just how well they set you up for success after residency. We really do get to do everything here. The program puts a big emphasis on hospital medicine, which is my passion. When we’re in the hospital, we’re running all the codes, doing an unbelievable number of procedures (CVLs, intubations, paras, thoras, circs, etc.), managing patients/vents/drips in the ICU, and assisting on C-sections. Amongst all 36 residents, we also deliver approximately 700 babies each year. I think we get exposed to so much here, which is exactly what I wanted. I wanted to feel like whatever came my way, even if I didn’t have an answer right away, I would be properly equipped to handle it with the utmost confidence. Currently, our program is scoring in the top 1% of the U.S. on the Family Medicine Board Exam and just this last year, we had the second highest score in the whole country. Aside from that, I have always been very fascinated with Tennessee. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a huge music buff outside of medicine. Even though I wouldn’t pursue music as a career, what a better place to come to than Tennessee?!
Why did you choose Trinity and what ultimately helped you make the decision?
I applied to several programs in the U.S., got waitlisted at some or just never heard back from others. A month before my college graduation, my mom went to a doctor’s visit and while catching up with her doctor, she found out that her doctor’s son had gone to Trinity. This was especially funny to me because for weeks leading up to this, I kept getting emails from Trinity, but I thought my parents were never going to let me go to an island. After her doctor’s appointment, my mom called me and told me to apply to Trinity, which the doctor had written down on a napkin. So, that’s all it took, and I finally applied. The process was so smooth and seamless. It just felt like it was meant to be. To this day, my parents still have the framed napkin with the name Trinity written on it.
Did you feel supported throughout your education at Trinity?
100%, I felt supported throughout the whole experience. From the interview process all the way to graduation, I really think Trinity set me up for a successful career. The local staff on the island were always very accommodating, and they made sure that we were comfortable and that all our needs were met. I also think the professors were extremely willing to meet with us, even outside of their office hours. Some professors even took us out to dinner, and it just felt like really good camaraderie. The doctors at Milton Cato Hospital were more than willing to teach, and answered all of our questions no matter how annoying we were. Even the security guards at the apartment complexes made us feel very safe.
What are the clerkships (rotations) like at Trinity?
I loved my clerkship experience! The attendings that I had were so approachable, well-versed, confident, and absolutely incredible. I loved learning from them, and I could tell they just wanted me to succeed. They knew me as a hopeful, wide-eyed med student who could only dream about life after graduation. To this day, I still talk to a lot of them, actually. It is so fun to see how excited they get when I tell them about a new accomplishment or patient case I encountered recently.
Do you have any stand-out memories, stories, experiences regarding your time at Trinity?
Growing up in Arizona, where there is obviously no beach, my favorite memory of the island is when some of my classmates and I would book a catamaran going to Bequia or the Tobago Cays…even if the trips didn’t go as planned. It was really neat, and a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. I had never done anything like it, and I certainly never thought I would get a chance to do any of it growing up in the desert. The one experience I will never forget was when the locals on Bequia wrote an article about me in the newspaper. Some of us had gone to Bequia, and somehow our water taxi flipped over. I ended up getting trapped under the boat with the waves still crashing over me. A bunch of tourists on the beach ran over and eventually pushed the boat off of me. I didn’t know about it until several weeks later when one of my local Vincentian friends approached me about it. I think they wrote an article with the headline, “American Med Student Nearly Dies by Water Taxi…” which was very funny in hindsight. I had this gash on my leg and they took me to a nearby bar and poured a whole bottle of vodka on my leg to disinfect it. That was a wild and painful experience, but it is probably one of my favorite memories and so I’m happy I went to Trinity because I wouldn’t have had those experiences otherwise.
Best advice you’d share with a prospective Trinity student?
I think the best advice I can give is to just give Trinity a fair chance. Once you get to the island, you might experience a culture shock, but the locals are so friendly, and the staff and faculty only want to see you succeed and I think it’s just really important to give it a chance.
If you want to hear more from Dr. Bodale, join us on September 12th at 8:30PM EST for the next webinar in our “From an Insider” series. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask Dr. Bodale about island life, clinical rotations, or any other questions they may have surrounding Caribbean medical school!
If you’re interested in learning how Trinity can support your dream of becoming a doctor, we invite you to reach out to our admissions team today! Contact us here.