Alumni Profile: Living In Spain During Covid-19, Dr. Luke Cicchinelli '90

Covid-19 has impacted life not onlyin America, but globally.  Two of our graduates are currently experiencing the effects of the virus in Spain. Dr. Luke Cicchinelli, class of 1990 and his wife Dr. Devonne Roman, class of 1991, relocated from the United States to North West Spain five years ago with their three children.

Their first three years in Spain they worked in practice with another couple. Now Dr. Cicchinelli does freelance consulting, surgery and teaching  throughout Spain, Europe and the Middle East. Dr. Cicchinelli was interviewed recently via zoom to share what it has been like for him and his family living where the Coronavirus has had a significant impact.  Madrid and Barcelona have been the epicenters for the virus.

Dr. Cicchinelli said it’s been a different and crazy experience living in quarantine. He and his wife have family in the States especially in New York so they have been in constant contact with them throughout this whole experience.  A few days before Spain was put into lockdown Dr. Cicchinelli was traveling to India for work. He was detained by immigration because of travel restrictions but was eventually allowed to continue to India.  Two days after returning home, Spain was officially put on lock down.

His experience in Spain has been comparable to the US, but stricter. All non-essential businesses were forced to close. Restaurants could not operate even for take-out, only one family member per household was allowed to go out to the grocery store or pharmacy as long as gloves and masks were worn, leaving the property otherwise was not allowed. The Police and Civil Guard were out circulating at all times and if you were caught outside you were immediately fined.  This went on for eight weeks. In the middle of May Spain rolled out a phased plan of reopening where elderly, adults and children were given a set time on when each group of individuals were allowed outside, but were not allowed to go further than one kilometer from their homes.  Although the restrictions are tough, Dr. Cicchinelli said for the most part the people of Spain have been cooperative. 

Podiatric care in Spain was not classified during the pandemic as “ an essential or emergency medical service”.   Therefore podiatrists were forced to close their practices. Podiatric care is not included nor funded within the public health system in Spain, so it is purely private. Patients are expected to pay out of pocket for their services.  Podiatrists have taken a huge hit on their businesses because of the virus. As of the end of May people in Spain started to return to work including podiatrists who are in the process of reopening their practices while conforming to social distances and other requirements.  

Dr. Cicchinelli was open about the current experience we are all dealing with and had this advice.  “Now is the time to do some spring cleaning of the mind and reprioritize what is important in our lives while staying prudent and cautious, he said. A favorite line of Dr. Cicchinelli is “a rising tide needs to lift all boats.  We all need to be rowing in the same direction to get through this”. 

Dr. Cicchinelli shared some advice for our current TUSPM students. During these uncertain times it is important that students stay enthusiastic and use this has an opportunity to review short and medium term goals  and recalibrate. Crisis equals opportunity, within the moments of crisis opportunities always arise. The world needs more well-rounded podiatric medicine specialists at home and abroad. He suggests that during their three-year residency students need to keep an eye on what their core passion is within our specialty and continue to develop that in parallel to their hospital and surgical training. He is a firm believer in education and suggests that it would be wise for today’s students to consider continuing studies such as  Master’s degrees  in disciplines that can be very complementary and  beneficial to their podiatry career such as Public Health,  Business Administration or Health Care Administration as the health care delivery system will always continue to evolve. Our  profession will always be a solid decision based on need and demographics and yet so will continuing education not just locally but also globally.

 Dr. Cicchinelli loves his career as a podiatrist. His and his wife have always remained a team throughout their careers. He is proud that he has been able to contribute to the education and the realization of the progress and goals of so many different colleagues nationally and internationally through the couples travels, both as a  clinician  in private practice as well as an educator and teacher  via consulting as well as medical mission and humanitarian work. 

Dr. Cicchinelli is a proud graduate of TUSPM and considers the school to have wonderful leadership. He credits a lot of his success to the school. When he and his wife are in Philadelphia they always make sure to try and stop by TUSPM and say hello to the students and faculty members and staff that they have  maintained relationships with over the last 30 years.