A well-deserved award

Published 11:07 pm Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Suffolk, Va., and Oderzo, Italy will forever be linked by the life of a boy who left Italy to come to America and wound up building a brand known worldwide through long hours spent at work in this city. That first unplanned cultural exchange between the two cities, both of which lay certain claims to Amedeo Obici, who founded Planters Peanuts, set the tone for many more to follow.

Today, the cities are formally linked through the Sister Cities International organization, and delegations from each visit the other every year, bringing goodwill, cultural curiosity and commercial exchange to one another in the process.

In the case of one Italian student last year, the Sister Cities program also brought an academic opportunity he could not have received in Italy. Edoardo Miotto, an Oderzo resident and student studying to be a physician, first traveled to Suffolk a few years ago on one of the exchange trips organized by the group. After beginning his college education in Italy, he found a good reason to come back to Suffolk — the opportunity to spend time shadowing health care providers in hospital and other care settings.

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Italian hospitals do not allow students without medical degrees to participate in such experience-gathering endeavors, but American hospitals do, so Miotto flew back to the States last year and spent the summer in Suffolk, living with host families and shadowing various physicians at Sentara Obici Hospital, the Western Tidewater Free Clinic and Bon Secours Care-A-Van.

It was an entirely appropriate way to honor the memory of Amedeo Obici, whose estate funded the establishment of Louise Obici Memorial Hospital, and the eventual sale of which funded the establishment of the Obici Healthcare Foundation, which in turn has funded both the free clinic and the Bon Secours Care-A-Van.

It seems likely that Miotto will take many of the lessons he learned here in Suffolk and use them in his future medical career, much as Amedeo Obici took some of the lessons he learned as a boy in Oderzo and used them to establish himself in Suffolk.

The recent exchange resulted in an Innovation Award for Youth and Education at the annual Sister Cities conference in San Antonio, Texas. The award was well deserved, and the Suffolk group that made it happen should be proud of the part it had in carrying on the legacy of Amedeo Obici.