Julia Perugini cannot pinpoint a singular moment in her life when she decided to pursue a career in health care.
“It’s something I’ve always been interested in,” she wrote in an email to the Daily. “I’ve always thought that careers in medicine offered the most profound opportunity of being there with people during both the best and worst days of their lives … [and] it’s a field where I can always learn.”
Now, the Shrewsbury, Mass. native is approaching the end of her time at Tufts. Perugini reflected on the moments throughout the four years here that shaped her interests and brought her a community of friendships and meaningful academic experiences.
As a biology and international relations double major, Perugini noted how she was able to combine her interests in different areas through the academic programs offered by Tufts.
“Coming into college, I had always loved science and math, so I’m not surprised that I ended up majoring in biology. However, I really enjoyed Spanish as well, and I ended up majoring in international relations. This was definitely not my initial plan,” Perugini wrote. “I wanted Spanish to be a part of my education, and IR has an eight-semester fluency requirement. I also was interested in knowing more about health systems.”
Perugini reflected on her experiences in the classroom that left an impact on her education.
“Professor Vesal Dini for physics was one of the most caring professors I’ve ever met, and I appreciated his approach to teaching,” Perugini wrote. “It was my first ‘flipped classroom’ experience, and I think that it was quite amazing to see how he was modifying his teaching style as research was being released on which methods are most effective for learning.”
In an effort to learn more about health systems, Perugini also took it upon herself to engage in meaningful extracurricular opportunities. She was a research assistant in the Research on Ethics, Aging, and Community Health lab, served on Tufts Emergency Medical Services and did volunteer work in Boston.
“I volunteered at the Boston Center for Refugee Health and Human Rights for a while and there is an aspect to that role that deals with access to housing, hygienic products, food, wifi, transportation, and all of these other factors that are so crucial for someone’s health. These kinds of issues come up with EMS as well, such as when someone wants to refuse care because they are worried about the cost of an ambulance ride,” Perugini wrote. “These experiences made me want to study community health as well, but I also wanted to get a little bit of an understanding of economics and the financial system. International relations, with a TC3 concentration (global health, nutrition, and the environment) allowed me to study Spanish, community health, and economic topics at the same time, alongside biology.”
Perugini volunteered in a local emergency room in high school, which sparked her interest in pursuing emergency opportunities when she arrived at Tufts.
“Once I knew I wanted to become an EMT, I took the class at Tufts. The TAs were from TEMS, and they were so enthusiastic about their experience on Tufts EMS. I did decide to join it, and it has been so wonderful,” Perugini wrote. “Being an EMT is by far the most intense clinical position I have had.”
For all the challenges she took on, Perugini and her fellow TEMS member Eric Grin won the Richard W. Vomacka Student Speaker Competition earlier this year at the National Collegiate EMS Foundation Conference in Boston for their presentation titled “From Brugada Syndrome to Commotio Cordis: Sudden Cardiac Death in Young People.” Clearly, Perugini’s commitment to health care has landed her well-earned recognition for her talents.
What’s next for Perugini? This fall, she will be attending medical school at Washington University in St. Louis, Mo. When asked where she sees herself in 10 years, Perugini replied, “Hopefully in ten years, I’ll be a clinician! I have really enjoyed my experiences as a mentor and a preceptor, and I definitely want to go into academic medicine.”
As a member of the women’s varsity indoor and outdoor track and field team, Perugini also wants to continue running in her free time after college. This year, Perugini was a team captain, a testament to her ability to be a leader both on and off the track. While she was excelling in the classroom, Perugini also dominated on the track. During her junior year, Perugini set a school record as a member of the women’s 4×200-meter relay, placing second at the New England Division III Track and Field Championships.
It would be remiss to ignore that much of Perugini’s time at Tufts was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic that hit during the spring of her first year.
“I’m very lucky that all of my Zoom classes were so organized. I appreciate how quickly my professors adapted to the circumstances. I will say, doing organic chemistry labs alone was definitely difficult, but I still really enjoyed my academic experience sophomore year,” Perugini wrote. “We were doing modified track lifts and workouts outdoors in smaller groups, and I even had to run a 400m in a mask that spring. But, I also got incredibly close with the people I was spending so much time with.”
As her time at Tufts comes to a close, Perugini offers some advice to future incoming students.
“I’ve loved being involved in a variety of things on campus and in Boston! The experiences you have do not have to fit together perfectly. What I’ve learned from track and field is so different than what I’ve learned from research, and that’s different than what I’ve learned from TAing Spanish, and the list could go on and on,” Perugini wrote. “I would say just get involved in things that excite you, and don’t be afraid to start these experiences early on.”
If there’s anyone who highlights the strength, excitement, resilience and excellence of the Tufts graduating Class of 2023, Perugini checks all the boxes.