Snigdha in Copenhagen

Snigdha is a junior biology major, minoring in chemistry and math, in Dedman College. In Fall 2009, she is participating in the Medical Practice and Policy Program at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad through SMU-in-Copenhagen.

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Classes, hospitals … and fun!

Such a busy week! Papers, tests, movies … things that all need to get done. Not to mention the daily chores, and now that the fall lineup of everyone’s favorite TV show (HOUSE!) is starting tonight, I can only say that there will be a lot of work ahead.

Not to say that it’s no fun. When you’re a bio nerd like me, there is nothing better than learning about cancer treatment and researching popular cancer drugs. That’s this week’s to-do for our Complexities of Cancer class. We have a group paper about breast cancer drugs, and I got Taxol. Now, everyone who’s taken Cell Biology at SMU knows that Taxol is covered by Dr. Ruben when he teaches his course. So I already feel ahead of the class on this one!

We also have a trip planned to the zoo for our Biology of Marine Mammals this week. I’m super excited and can’t wait! I have to say, almost all of the classes here at DIS (Danish Institute for Study Abroad) integrate a field study into the course, while the core course (the class that the program you sign up for is based on) has a short study tour and a long study tour.

Our short study tour was two weeks ago, and we went to Odense for the Hans Christian Anderson Children’s Hospital and Arhus to visit the state-of-the-art imaging center at the Arhus University Hospital. We had little pit stops in between, like visiting a general practitioner to understand the Danish health system and a medical museum.
CIMG9897.JPGSince the U.S. is currently undergoing this massive health care reform debate, it’s probably important to shed some light on the Danish system. Basically, health care and education is free.

How does it not get expensive? They use the gatekeeper model – that is, the general practitioner (your family doctor) is the first doctor you see and the doctor who basically oversees all your treatments. If the gatekeeper deems it necessary, he or she will refer you to a specialist or to the emergency room if he can’t immediately fix it.

Also, instead of rushing to the ER because the doctor’s office is closed, people here call a hotline that basically does a quick triage over the phone. A doctor (who is required to sign up for this duty a set number of times each month) listens to the caller complaints and then decides whether the caller should go to the ER, stay home and wait for their regular doctor, or can send a doctor to make a house call. This leaves acute emergencies for the hospitals. I hope our lawmakers are taking note!

At Hans Christian Anderson Children’s Hospital, we got an in-depth look at neonatal care (specifically how Danish hospitals avoid using ventilators in premature infants) and visited the genetics lab. It was lots of fun and pretty interesting to see all the equipment.

You’re all probably thinking, “But Snigdha, this just sounds like work, and it’s all boring in Denmark.” First of all, it was fun. I got to interact with doctors and sit in on lectures on brain function! Second of all, we went bowling and to a modern art museum that was very interesting. There were plastic bubbles, preserved horse specimens and chairs with pyramids on them at the Arhus Museum of Modern Art.

CIMG0027.JPG Arhus (northwest of Copenhagen) itself was beautiful with huge canals and quaint little streets. So I did have fun! And my housemates are a lot of fun, and we had homemade chocolate cake for a birthday this week. That’s fun, too!

But enough of the little study vacation. Time to hit the books! My Human Health and Disease class (my core course for the Medical Practice and Policy program) meets twice a week at Frederiksberg Hospital, and while we do overviews of the human body, we also get to see real patients.

We’ve learned how to take a patient history, and about every 2-3 weeks, our professors/doctors (the professors here at DIS aren’t primarily teachers; they have other occupations, such as researchers, doctors, businessmen or administrators – so this way we get a window into their “real” world) bring a patient in for us to practice our patient history skills. The point is to learn how to gather important details without making the patient feel uneasy. And in a room full of 20 kids, it’s hard not to feel uneasy. So, we do appreciate all of the patients who volunteer.

Well, enough for this one post … I miss you SMU!

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