I just got back from my long study tour for my core course: Medical Practice & Policy! We traveled to both Berlin and Poznań to get a look into the different healthcare systems in both of these countries. Let me tell ya, there is a HUGE difference. It’s so crazy how different a healthcare system can be, when the countries are only a few hours away from each other, like the states. I thought I would have two posts for both Berlin and Poznan, so here’s the rundown of my long study tour. Some MPP classes went to Budapest & Venice, while others went to Poznan first, then Berlin. I think all the options are great and really give you a great insight on medicine in each country.
Today was arrival day! We arrived at the Copenhagen airport at 6:55 am and boarded the plane to Berlin around 8:30. The flight was pretty quick and it gave me sometime to watch some Netflix and take a little nap…
When we arrived in Berlin, we were given free time to do what we want and it was around lunchtime. I had looked up good placed to eat beforehand and a few friends and I went to Burgermeister, a really great burger place that is located in what used to be a toilet!! After lunch, we went back over to our hotel, which was located near the East Side Gallery, one of the longest remaining strips of the Berlin Wall that now has lots of local artists’ work on it! I was super excited about visiting this, because at Bowdoin I took an entire class on Berlin–I had never traveled to a city where I knew so much about its history. It’s so much more enriching, and I was able to tell my friends a little about what happened in each historical place we visited! The Berlin Wall was built during the Cold War in 1961 by the GDR (German Democratic Republic/East Berlin) in order to keep people in, but the public was told it was to “keep communists out.” Really interesting history.
We also went on an Alternative Walking Tour of Berlin, which meant we were guided around the parts of Berlin we wouldn’t normally find ourselves! We were brought to both the old East and West side of Berlin, shown many famous graffiti artists, and were educated about “train bombings.” Train bombings are actually slang for when artists quickly graffiti a train. Really interesting tour, it left me really wanting to see the historical sites I had learned about in my Berlin class back at Bowdoin, but that was for tomorrow!
We then ate dinner at the TV Tower located in Alexanderplatz! The TV Tower has a rotating restaurant and we were able to see all around Berlin while we ate the most delicious German meal. We had a three course meal, served with some Rose, which was extremely relaxing after an entire day of traveling and walking.
We had our first academic visit today to the Charité Hospital and met with a pediatric oncologist. She gave us a tour around the hospital, which looked like the scene out of a movie, and then sat us down to have a Q&A session to learn a bit more about the healthcare system. At this point we didn’t really know anything, so it was nice to get a small introduction before our next visit!
Our next visit was my favorite out of all of our visits, and I feel that this was the same for most of my classmates! We got to visit with a few doctors from the Anesthesiology and Operative Intense Medicine Department. This was actually a great experience. The doctors were well prepared for our visit and had an information session about the German healthcare system prepared for us.
We found out that Germany has a “Principle of Solidarity,” which means that everyone gets the same services and health costs are covered regardless of what you are paid and your own state of health. This is important, because the amount you pay for healthcare in Germany depends on your salary. You pay 7.3% of your salary and your employer pays an additional 7.3%. The cap for your health insurance is around 4,500 euros, so this means that once your salary exceeds 4,500 euros a month it won’t matter, you will only pay 7.3% of 4,300 euros. Really an interesting principle, but it allows everyone who is employed to have healthcare, which doesn’t mean that there isn’t healthcare for the unemployed–they are definitely still insured, it it illegal in Germany to send a patient away who needs basic care.
After our information session we were guided to the ICU and OR!! Yes, you heard that right the OR! They let us change into scrubs and watch an actual surgery. Over the summer, I had the opportunity to shadow a neurosurgeon, which was an amazing experience, but now I got the chance to watch open heart surgery!!! Two of us went into each OR and were able to watch a different surgery, we were all so excited and happy to observe. The surgeons in my OR were performing a coronary artery bypass grafting procedure (CABG) and we came in at the perfect time. The surgeons allowed us to stand on a stool and watch over them while they worked. We watched them attach a vein they had retrieved from the patients leg from the heart to the aorta in order to reestablish sufficient blood flow in the patient. Honestly one of the coolest things I’d ever seen. The heart morphed as it adjusted to the new attachment, then went back to beating. It was a chilling experience and after we left I was so energized by the procedure. The surgeons were also extremely nice and talked to us while they were working. They asked us about what we were studying, where we came from, and a little about American schooling.
After our visit to the hospital, we were given time to ourselves for the rest of the day and a bunch of us went sightseeing around Berlin!! We saw the Brandenburg Gate, the Reichstag, the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe, and a bunch of other sites. I would 100% recommend reading up on these sites and even visiting them, I could write about them all day but this would end up being a 10 page blog, yikes!
We even found a design your own Ritter Sports chocolate bar store. I made one for myself and my host sister, because it’s her favorite chocolate bar! I made mine with milk chocolate, raspberries, caramelized coconut, and butter cookies. She asked for me to have the employee surprise her with his favorite, so he made her one with dark chocolate, cornflakes, strawberries, and marshmallows. We’ll see how she likes it….
Today we only had one visit to a Radiology department. The visit was pretty interesting, we were able to see the radiologist in the cath lab at the hospital and then we listened to a talk on how to possibly diagnose a patient brought to his department. He also gave us a little rundown on the German healthcare system, although this one was a little less organized and a little more in German…?
After the visit, my friends and I were starving/sleepy so we ate brunch at a yummy place called Butterbrot and then headed back to the hotel to have a nice nap! Afterwards, we ventured out to go find the infamous and delicious cinnamon buns at a well known bakery in Berlin, Ziet Für Brot, before heading to the Jewish Museum. The visit to the Jewish museum was a very great experience. I actually did not know much about Jewish culture and found it really interesting to learn more about Jewish culture, which isn’t something you typically hear about when you think about Jewish people–you typically only remember the Holocaust. I think this museum is very important and did a great job teaching me about Jewish culture as well as providing a space for respect and reflection. The architect of the building also played with multiple voids of space that were dedicated to being a memorial for Jews. It was a very impactful experience.
For dinner, my friends and I ate a really great Vietnamese place called Chen Ché. It was a nice way to end our trip to Berlin, but I truly felt like I didn’t have enough time in the city… I hope one day I can return and explore more.
I know this blog doesn’t completely encapsulate my trip to Berlin, but I tried to include all the highlights! If you want to know more about the trip or have any questions, feel free to contact me/comment!
See ya soon for my blog on Poznan!