A program with a practical focus

12 Apr 2023

At this year’s international Oncology and Neurology Winter Schools, students from 12 countries gained valuable insights into the daily hospital routine.

Takumi Fujii and Hana Hozjan have just spent the morning on the oncological ward. They did the rounds with doctors at LMU’s Grosshadern Hospital, visiting patients, discussing diagnoses and gathering hands-on experience. “I took someone’s blood for the first time ever,” Takumi says. After lunch in the canteen, an x-ray conference and an expert lecture are the next items on the agenda.

Takumi and Hana are attending the Oncology Winter School, which the Faculty of Medicine hosts every year for ten international students and ten LMU students. The Neurology Winter School takes place in parallel, this year with a total of eight participants.

Hana Hozjan (University of Maribor, Slovenia), Linus Claußnitzer (LMU Munich), Cristian Corrêa Vilches (Universidade Estadual Paulista "Júlio de Mesquita Filho", Brazil), Takumi Fujii (Yokohama City University, Japan), Hanna Thurisch (LMU) and Avni Singh (Charles University, Czech Republic) at the Winter School with PD Dr. med. Claudia Nußbaum (LMU).

© Stephan Hoeck

A lighthouse project

“For me, LMU’s Winter Schools are a genuine lighthouse project,” says Dr. Christian Braun, pediatric specialist, head of the Max Eder Junior Research Group at the Dr. von Haunerschen Children’s Hospital and, as of this year, the new head of LMU’s medical exchange programs. “The aspect of intercultural learning and the ability to train in small groups are what make this program special. Students from different countries enjoy direct contact with experienced physicians. They also get the chance to see patients in an authentic hospital setting, as well as adding depth to their theoretical knowledge with accompanying seminars and the discussion of cases.”

Takumi Fujii is studying medicine at Yokohama City University, Japan, and had long planned to take part in an international exchange. “I wanted to broaden my knowledge of oncology, improve my English and gain some international experience,” he says. He applied to the LMU Oncology Winter School because he found one aspect particularly compelling: the Study Buddy program, where an individual German partner is assigned to each international student and accompanies them through the routine of life on the ward.

Demanding and varied

Hana Hozjan comes from Slovenia, where she studies at the University of Maribor. Like Takumi, she is attending the Oncology Winter School. She is especially happy at the chance to experience oncology from a different perspective. “I like the interdisciplinary approach to cancer medicine here in Munich,” she says. “When someone has breast cancer, for example, there is intensive dialogue between oncology, radiology and gynecology. In many cases, doctors from a variety of disciplines consult together. It is exciting to be a part of it.”

Participants in the two Winter Schools spend a total of three weeks in Munich. The curricula for both programs are as demanding as they are varied: The budding doctors from around the world spend the first part of each day getting to know the ropes on the oncology or neurology ward. In the afternoons, they attend courses on the latest therapeutic approaches and join with experts to discuss case studies in small groups. The students also receive an introduction to clinical laboratory work, familiarize themselves with radiology or hyperthermia and try their hand at image-based functional diagnostics, for instance.

International friendships

At the weekends, the international students from the Oncology and Neurology Winter Schools join their German study buddies in exploring Munich and the surrounding area – including a city tour and excursions to such places as Nuremberg and Neuschwanstein. “On the very first weekend, the Munich City Tour already helped us grow together as a group,” Takumi says. “A lively discourse was immediately struck up between students from different countries and disciplines.” He was deeply impressed by a trip to Dachau, where the students visited the concentration camp memorial. The experience prompted an in-depth discussion of how the students’ home countries deal with history.

Linus Claussnitzer is studying medicine in his seventh semester at LMU and volunteered as a study buddy for the Neurology Winter School. For him too, the excursions to the surrounding area, but especially the Munich City Tour were enriching experiences. “I learned so many new things about my city,” he smiles. His studies and language skills also benefited from the program. “I really liked the structure in particular,” he says. “We began with a course on learning neurological examination techniques and were then able to put what we had learned into practice on the ward.” The kind of intensive specialist dialogue that is facilitated by the Winter School is often more difficult in a routine context. “There were only eight of us, so we really received personal tuition from the professors. That gives you a whole new opportunity to discuss issues.”

The participants of the Winter School on the roof terrace of the LMU Hospital.

© Stephan Hoeck

Close contact with lecturers

These “teaching rounds” were a highlight for Hana Hozjan, too. Lisa Lechner is the person at the International Office responsible for programs run by the Faculty of Medicine, and she knows how badly students have missed this kind of exchange during the pandemic years. “There were few international encounters, and many students sorely missed the practical application, the direct contact between patients, students and lecturers,” she says.

In the future, Dr. Christian Braun, the new head of the medical exchange programs, wants to once again ramp up both the digital possibilities and the aspect of face-to-face dialogue. “The Covid pandemic and the Ukraine conflict have fundamentally changed all our lives,” he says. “The pandemic forced us to shift teaching to digital channels, which initially interrupted scientific and didactic bonds that had developed and grown over a long period. For me, it is of urgent importance to cement these bonds once again.”

In addition to the Winter Schools, numerous Summer Schools are held each year at LMU in a wide variety of disciplines. All information is available here.

What are you looking for?