Vegas showgirls? Check. Falafel? Check. Lenin and Marx together? Yeah. BERLIN. GET EXCITED.

Ever since we got here on Sunday night, the MPP kids have been going and going and going. Our days are pretty much planned from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (or even later! I am writing this at 11 p.m. from my hotel room sans wireless).

While yesterday was purely a cultural visit day with visits to the Berlin Dom (we climbed staircase after staircase after staircase), discovering life in East Berlin at the Museum (DDR = Deutsche Democratic Republic = GDR = German Democratic Republic, not Dance Dance Revolution), lunch at the Reichstag (the line to just visit the top of Germany’s Parliament building was nearly a 2-hour wait, but we breezed through with reservations for an AMAZING gourmet lunch), and we burned off all the calories on our bike tour. (If you ever get the chance to do a bike tour, go for it; we went to nearly 10 landmarks and it was all really fun, easy and safe!) CIMG0304.JPG

And then, we went to the Jewish Museum, which was a detailed, thorough and very interesting museum chronicling Jewish history, culture and achievements. Although we did not get to visit every exhibit, our whole group wished we had more time to visit.

Interestingly, Berlin also has a wide variety of ethnic food, ranging from Middle Eastern (due to the large Turkish population), Mexican, Peruvian, Vietnamese, Singaporean, Indian (I was hassled by a waiter at an Indian restaurant when I was walking by, he had to pick the one Indian girl in the group) … yeah, the list goes on and on. And every place we ate was fabulous, the Italian, Bavarian (a region in southern Germany) and Middle Eastern. Needless to say, we are not weak from hunger! Which is very important!

German health care
Today we visited Charite Hospital in Berlin. This is a large, historic (300 years in 2010) teaching hospital near the center of Berlin (close to the Reichstag) which provides an assortment of care based on referral from a general practitioner.

Germany provides the hospital a lump sum payment based on the diagnosis (the more complicated a case, the more money a hospital gets). This minimizes hospital stays and patients seem to like this as doctors are motivated to treat them.

You must be wondering, don’t some patients leave before they are ready? Do some patients come back because they were discharged early? Yes, but these cases must be reported every two years in a quality report. Doctors are also encouraged to keep imaging and other test requests down to minimize costs.

Some downsides? Definitely! Rooms are pretty bare, outpatient days are higher (but outpatient here is better than inpatient according to the Germans), immunization costs are not covered by public insurance, which is what most of the population has. The individual pays 50% of the insurance cost, and the employer kicks in the other 50%. Insurance is provided by about nearly 300 regional groups.

The most important thing is that even if you are unemployed, you must still pay for insurance. And although most services are provided, there are long waiting lines. Again with immunization being relatively optional due to prohibitive costs, there is a rise in tuberculosis (which the U.S. no longer vaccinates against), measles, etc. Also, as the population is aging and with the downturn in the job market worldwide, there is less money to fund the pay to the doctors. Let’s all collectively sigh right now as we ponder the state of our health care reform. Okay, done?

Good, because we saw a medical museum filled with all sorts of oddities (deformities, an iron lung, obstetric tools and surgery tools throughout history). And after that was a great lunch at a Bavarian restaurant, and then immediately off to the clinical skills lab where we learned basic emergency care, such as CPR, and then looked at models. Can we say fun?!

All things sparkly

After that, we girls changed into our nice evening wear (who goes to the theater in jeans? I must say, I still have some SMU in me, I knew to dress up!) We saw an amazing acrobatic, musical, theatric performance called Qi (pronounced “key”). Consider it a mash-up of Bollywood, Vegas, and the 1980s. Consider it also as the subconscious of my best friend who loves everything sparkly, shiny, glow in the dark. It was spectacular!

Technological advances in telemedicineCIMG0559.JPG
Our last visit was at the Max Delbruck Center for Molecular Medicine (a clinical research center) where we looked at technological advances in telemedicine. For example, let’s say you were a doctor who needed a second opinion from a doctor across the country. You could use the neat 3D cameras and special glasses with laser-equipped microscopes to look for extra masses that might be invisible to the naked eye.
(In photo: laser microscope placed over a mock colon sample with a tumor)

There was even a machine with an attached stylus that simulated a patient’s face. So it would be like feeling the patient’s cheek or forehead, etc. So maybe when the babies of today practice medicine, they will be working with a lot more tools! The aim, however, is not to replace the physician, but to assist them. It is important to know this, because many people fear that robots will replace people.

After that we got to see the MRI machine. It’s a 7 Tesla machine, which means it is much, much stronger than the ones used normally (the ones we normally see are between 1 and 3 Tesla), and even with the machine off we could feel our belt buckles being attracted to the machine along with keys in our pockets. It was a lot of fun!

Well now I am in Poland, and I will give you the rundown on things I have seen, done and generally been excited about!