Early Career Interships

Cleveland Clinic, Croatian Scholarship Fund, and ACAP Join Forces to Provide Scholarships

The recent “Let’s Celebrate for Palčići” worldwide event was a fitting tribute to more than 450 ACAP members and their friends coming together in the aftermath of the devastating earthquakes in Zagreb to raise over $190,000 in order to provide relief for Croatia’s hospitals struggling with earthquake damage and the COVID19 pandemic. Media coverage was prompt to recognize the unity of Croats during times of tragedy, making it perhaps easy to miss that the fundraiser was only one of the many ongoing and successful initiatives involving the ACAP’s Medicine and Health Sciences Section.

The most visible of other projects is the Medical Tourism Taskforce which seeks to help Croatia develop medical tourism as a year around industry that would capitalize on the country’s well-developed tourism infrastructure and high level of medical education. The taskforce, through the initiative of Dr. Jeana Havidich, recently sent a team of MBA students from Dartmouth University’s Tuck Business School to Croatia. These Ivy Leaguers, after visiting many healthcare facilities and meeting with healthcare providers and ministry of health officials in Croatia, developed a business plan that outlined strategies to successfully increase existing and launch new medical tourism opportunities.

Other projects included webinars for ACAP members featuring Croatian physicians from around the world to answer any questions about the COVID19 pandemic or featuring Dr. Alemka Markotić, Croatia’s chief virologist whose leadership over the pandemic, low infection and death rates, and calmness through the storm quickly earned her a heroine status in Croatia.

Photo: Antun Z. Kovač at the Cleveland Clinic.

However, since the ACAP’s mission includes networking and knowledge-exchange, the Medicine and Health Sciences Section also started to invest in young professionals: medical students in Croatia. An opportunity availed itself following the untimely passing of Sveto Olujić, a beloved member of the Croatian community in California, when his family asked that, in lieu of flowers, donations be given to the Croatian Scholarship Fund. This prompted Marko Buljan, of ACAP’s Silicon Valley Chapter, to involve ACAP’s Medicine and Health Sciences Section in creating an internship program for medical students at the University of Zagreb by using the significant scholarship funds collected to honor his late uncle.

As a result, two students from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Zagreb, Ana Smajo

and Antun Zvonimir Kovač, received scholarships last year to spend time as interns at the world-renown Cleveland Clinic, an effort organized by the hospital’s CEO Dr. Tomislav Mihaljević, the hospital’s Director of Education Dr. Mario Škugor, as well as the ACAP’s vice president Dr. Steven Pavletić, all three of whom are alumni of Zagreb’s Faculty of Medicine. Based on the student’s specialty, Dr. Škugor was able to create a custom educational program that the students cite as invaluable to their professional development. Each scholarship, valued at approximately $4,000, covered the students’ travel, housing, tuition, and living expenses during their month-long stay in the United States.

While the COVID19 crisis prevented the program from continuing this year, the goal is to expand such opportunities for young Croatian doctors, beyond the Cleveland Clinic, and also from medical schools in Osijek, Rijeka, and Split, as well as to eventually create a perpetual endowment.

Perhaps initiatives such as those spearheaded by the ACAP’s Medical and Health Sciences Section, in line with the founding values of ACAP, will demonstrate that Croats don’t only come together in times of tragedy and that when we come together, we prosper together… thus affirming the ACAP’s slogan of “Let’s prosper together!”

To learn about the journey of a scholarship recipient, please click here.

Due to COVID19, the Croatian Scholarship Fund had to cancel two major fundraising events. To help support the CSF’s scholarships for Croatian university students living and attending universities in Croatia and Bosnia and Hercegovina, please visit GoFundMe.


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