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Tragedy Reminds PA Student What Patient ‘Care’ Is All About

Pennsylvania College of Technology physician assistant student Filippo D. “Flip” Borsellino, now looking forward to his final two rounds of clinical internships before graduating in August, encountered a doctor, a community – and a tragedy – that have helped to shape his goals as a health care provider.

In September, Borsellino was in the first days of his very first “clinical rotation,” a Family Practice Internship with Dr. Stephen J. Renzi in Troy, when the community was shaken by the death of a 7-year-old boy. The boy had been riding in a cart behind his father’s bicycle when the bike and a pickup truck collided.

Borsellino said that the boy’s family had just moved to Troy from the South, but what he witnessed in the family’s new hometown was inspiring and admirable.

Filippo D. “Flip” Borsellino
Filippo D. “Flip” Borsellino

As news of the accident spread through the small community, Renzi and his wife, Teresa, were among those who felt the need to act. Both basketball coaches in the Troy Area School District, the couple heads up the Trojan 3-Point Club. The club began asking the community to pull together and donate food for a benefit dinner to financially help the child’s family.

Borsellino watched person after person stop by the doctor’s office to drop off cookies or ask how they could help. Despite having worked in the community for only a few days – and knowing he’d be moving on to another internship in another town in a few short weeks – Borsellino was compelled to pitch in, too.

“Filippo jumped right in and started to help organize, pick up and deliver food,” Renzi said. “He also stayed during his own time to help with all of the many tasks involved in preparing for the dinner, including serving the night of the benefit dinner.”

Understanding a Penn College physician assistant student’s duties while in their clinical internships makes Borsellino’s “above-and-beyond” efforts even more commendable, explained Lynn Eckrote, clinical director of the college’s Physician Assistant Program.

“They have a pretty intense schedule to begin with,” Eckrote explained. “They spend 40 to 48 hours working in clinical, plus assignments. And in a student’s first rotation, they don’t know what to expect on tests and on practical (exams).”

On top of that, she said, Borsellino was commuting an hour and 10 minutes from his Williamsport apartment to his internship with Renzi.

“Free time is precious and limited,” Eckrote said. “I think that was the most admirable, that Flip gave up that free time for this family.”

For Borsellino, it just wouldn’t have felt right to go home without offering to help.

“It’s how I was raised,” he said. “If someone needs help, and if you can help them, you help them.”

That was reinforced by his work as a firefighter and paramedic back home in Ohio, where he’ll return after graduation to pursue a master’s degree. Aware that he wanted to enter the medical field, Borsellino became a volunteer firefighter at the age of 18, then went to “medic school” and served dual positions as a paid, full-time paramedic with one fire department while volunteering with a second. Eventually, he took a job as an emergency department medic at Barberton Hospital, where he became friends with a physician assistant who told him he “needed to be doing this.”

It was as a firefighter and paramedic that he first experienced how fragile life is.

“I actually liked the volunteer position better,” he said. “I like to be out at 3 a.m. when everyone else is still asleep, helping someone. I like to do things that go unnoticed but make a big difference.”

That’s why hours (and hours) in a church kitchen cooking spaghetti for the Troy fundraiser, followed by an evening helping to serve it behind the scenes, was ideal for Borsellino.

“I was fortunate to be there to do that,” he said. “I feel any of my classmates would have done that.”

Borsellino remains inspired by the community and its efforts to help the accident victim’s family.

“The amount of people who showed up was incredible,” he said. “It was very admirable that the whole community pulled together.”

His respect for Renzi goes beyond the doctor’s work on the fundraiser.

“He knows so much about his patients,” Borsellino said. “He takes so much time to talk with them, not just about why they’re there.”

In his health care experiences thus far, Borsellino has learned to treat each patient the way he would want his grandmother to be treated, and he saw the same principle in action during his internship in Troy.

“Dr. Renzi is one of the ones I hope I can mimic,” he said. “He changed my life for the better.”

The respect is mutual.

“Flip is a wonderful and generous young man,” Renzi said of the student. “Not many would take time out of their own schedule to help with such a task in a community that they had just been introduced to. He will do well in his future employment and personal endeavors, as he is caring and compassionate, and that is a gift.”

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