Student Spotlight: Carleigh Burns

Author: Costanza Montanari

Carleigh Burns, a Neuroscience and Behavior major and Italian minor, is in Rome this Spring semester as part of the General Education Program. During her time in Rome she is living the the ND Villa, conducting an internship at UNESCO and shadowing Dr. Bilotta at Salvator Mundi International Hospital.


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Coming to Rome, I knew that I wanted to take full advantage of the cultural and educational opportunities that the city and universities had to offer. I was immediately attracted to UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights’ internship because of my interests in neuroscience, ethics, and human rights. I knew that this was the perfect opportunity for me to immerse myself in Italian language and culture, while simultaneously applying the knowledge I have gained in my field of study.

The Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights is one of UNESCO’s many Chairs around the world, which aims to provoke thought and encourage dialogue on important ethical implications related to the fields of neuroscience, women’s rights, human ecology, nanotechnology and artificial intelligence, refugees and migrants, bioart, and religion. Often times, what I am studying as a Neuroscience major focuses on the science behind the discoveries and advancements that we are making every day. Yet, my classes tend to focus less on the ethical and philosophical implications of these advancements. Fortunately, my work with UNESCO has exposed me to this philosophical facet of science and encouraged me to think far beyond the material that I learn in my studies.


What are your duties and responsibilities at UNESCO?


            At UNESCO I am responsible for researching articles related to new scientific and technological discoveries, ethical questions, and any other developments relevant to the Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights. Every week I use these articles to update our social media sites so each day there is something new for our followers to read and think about. I have learned a great deal just from this research every week. I am able to stay informed and up to date with current ethical issues and debate while constantly learning more and seeing a variety of different issues in a new light. I also assist with translations of important documents and organizing different events, which allow me to further challenge my understanding of the Italian language.

I recently had the opportunity to plan and participate in UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights 6th International Bioethics, Multiculturalism, and Religion Workshop on Multicultural and Interreligious Perspectives on Informed Consent. This was an incredible chance for me to experience a formal academic debate and discussion on the ethics of informed consent in clinical research, taking into consideration different religious perspectives.

The participants in this three-day conference were doctors and experts in religion and ethics from all over the world. I was responsible for taking notes throughout the workshop and keeping the social media pages updated on the discussions that took place. This was a wonderful experience to be in an international, multicultural, and academic environment like I had never seen before. I was able to learn so much through my interactions with the impressive individuals over the course of the conference and I am incredibly grateful to have had the experience to learn more about their thoughts, opinions, and careers.


While the people I work with always make an effort to communicate with me in Italian because they know that I want to learn more, I never could have anticipated how much I would be able to learn from being in a more international environment. The opportunity to watch people from France, China, Italy, Jerusalem, and the US all communicate with one another was something special and an event that I feel grateful to have been a part of.


I am thankful for the positive experience that I have had with UNESCO Chair in Bioethics and Human Rights thus far. I have been able to learn and grow in new ways, immersed in an environment that “intends to foster solid scientific preparation and knowledge in bioethics and bio-law that will advance the well-being and solidarity for citizens of the world.” I look forward to the time that I have remaining to continue to learn more about the ethics related to my science interests, engage in Italian culture and language, and further explore my passions for neuroscience, ethics, and culture.


During your time in Rome you are also shadowing Dr. Bilotta at Salvator Mundi Hospital. What are you learning from it?


            I have always been drawn to the medical field and had the desire to learn more about international medicine. My internship with Dr. Bilotta has been yet another wonderful opportunity for me to experience an international environment while exploring my interests. I observe Dr. Bilotta’s patient visits along with specialist consultations, and radiological tests such as CT scans, MRI, bone density scans, and x-rays. I am assigned different medical diseases or related issues to research and discuss with her. My assignments provide me with the opportunity to broaden my understanding of medicine, especially in an international context. Additionally, the internship exposes me to the interplay between government and healthcare within, providing me with a unique insight to the differences between healthcare in the United States and Italy.  

At Salvator Mundi International Hospital, my ability to have meaningful conversations with patients, other doctors, and radiology technicians far exceeds what my initial expectations were. Through developing a relationship with Dr. Bilotta, I am provided with the opportunity to further discern my career path and passions. I am looking forward to continuing with my internship with Dr. Bilotta as I know I still have much to learn from her.

 As someone who is still exploring her many interests, my internship opportunities have provided me with invaluable experiences that allow me to think more critically about my future goals. I am confident that the insight I have gained from these opportunities will continue to guide me as I decide what direction I want to pursue in the future.