When I pause in between the flurry of papers and reviews and outlines due, I think about Poland. Ahhh, how nice it was to be in Poznan and be able to gorge myself on pastry after pastry after pastry. They were cheap, varied and delicious. And filling (sigh) …

CIMG0603-1.jpg So I wasn’t in Poland for the pastries … I was there to look at the Polish health system. So we all know how the Danish, universal health care system works. And we all stare in awe at its efficiency. If Denmark is the poised, good-looking, over-achieving high schooler, then the Polish health care system would be the awkward younger sibling fumbling through middle school.

Poland, with lower taxes, is unable to pay for universal health care. Most doctors work at least two jobs and consider their job at a public hospital to be somewhat of a joke. They are only allowed to work 3-4 hours a day (and if you are an adult in any career field, you know that it is impossible to get anything productive done; many doctors put in several hours that they are not paid for) and then work 3-4 hours in a private practice.

Entire wards can be closed down because the government can’t pay for the influx of patients beyond what the contract with the hospitals states. Patient rooms are crowded, and while the technology and care can be comparable to what we see in US hospital, the hospitals are not.

We were able to observe an endoscopy, and while the procedure would be similar to US procedures, the endoscopy was performed in the equivalent of an office: there were fax and copier machines and nurses were drinking coffee while assisting. The room was crowded with other students and other doctors coming in to get a second opinion on their own cases. In short, I can identify with the patient when he was crying (not from pain, he was under anesthesia; probably from the shock and confusion).

So while facing high economic pressures, it’s remarkable and commendable that Poland has a universal health care system; it’s not perfect, but it’s working the kinks out.

OK, health system comparisons aside (it may be hard to do this; instead of working on a Russian Lit paper, I was perusing the House Bill for health care reform H.R. 3200 … don’t judge me, I found it to be super interesting), I got to do an ultrasound on a pregnant woman. It was amazing to see her baby’s heart beat really fast and each tiny valve open and close rhythmically and it lined up with the perfect little spine. It was crazy to think we could see all this just by using sound waves and that in a few days this baby would probably be out in the world. Amazing.

It was also fun to meet all the expectant mothers in the wards who were sitting there with Polish magazines and just chatting about their babies. We were able to see the heart rate charts for a pair of twins and then describe changes that would be present if the chart was abnormal. All in all, good day.

CIMG0606.jpg Tourist information … right. Poznan was a beautiful city and interestingly completely renovated since WWII. We did a brief walking tour and got to see one of the most beautiful churches that was built in the Baroque style. Also because of the cheap(er – compared to Copenhagen) prices, I was able to pick up some fun things while shopping. We also visited Lech Brewery (where I am sure there is some massive Organic Chemistry going on …) and ate at a Dark restaurant. The premise there is that it’s dark. Completely dark. So you can’t see anything and you are basically feeling for your food (which was quite delicious).

Anyways the Polish are super nice and have delicious food (pierogies are good!). My friend lost her cell phone and some nice person is now mailing it back to her. They were also very helpful when we were lost or needed to find the right tram to get to the hospital.

I had a great time on my study tour and wish I had more time in Poland!