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Studying Medicine

Medical students learn about diseases and how to treat them.
An article by Katharina Wagner in collaboration with Cornelia Weber

Studying Medicine
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That is what it’s about

A patient complains of abdominal pain. What questions should the doctor ask? What tests does he perform? Which therapies does he prescribe? Medical students look at the causes of diseases and the possible treatment methods. In the first section of the academic studies in what is known as the pre-clinical phase, the focus is initially on the basic principles of the natural sciences and theoretical topics such as anatomy, physiology and biochemistry. These are supplemented by laboratory practicals and a gross anatomy course where students dissect corpses. "Teaching usually takes place in smaller groups, lecture-style teaching is on the decline," says the president of the faculty conference for Medicine, Heyo Kroemer. The first medicine examination ( preliminary examination) after at least four semesters is followed by the clinical section with 21 disciplines, ranging from general practice through to internal medicine all the way to surgery, as well as 14 interdisciplinary areas such as rehabilitation or epidemiology. In work placements, students learn about the day-to-day in hospitals and practices. This is followed by the second medical examination. In the last academic year, the practical year, students then work in a hospital. After this, there is still an oral practical examination. "They are not yet perfect doctors," says Kroemer. "They develop a routine only after they have worked for two or three years in healthcare." Medical school usually takes 13 semesters. Almost all students begin their doctorate during their studies. Some are already finished with their doctoral theses before they take their final examinations. In recent years, model degree courses in Aachen, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Hamburg, Cologne, etc. have been lifting the strict separation between the (theoretical) pre-clinical and clinical (practical) phase. The anatomy lecturer explains, for example, the nervous system and, in addition, a doctor presents a patient with a nerve disease to students. Early patient contact and new approaches are now sought in other areas as well. "Some conventional degree courses hardly differ from model degree courses," says Kroemer. Regardless of the form of study, it is only possible to specialise with the specialist training after graduating. It takes another five to seven years.

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suitability, obstacles, misconceptions

The workload is high; students need to remember a lot of details. But this hardly seems to throw anyone off course. "Almost everyone who gets a place also finishes," says Kroemer. One reason he gives is the rigorous admission conditions: admission to Medicine is restricted throughout Germany; the course entrance restrictions require grades in the one range. "Only very good school leavers can enrol, and they are usually highly motivated." Anyone who did well in the natural sciences in school has an advantage. Some universities also offer voluntary link programmes to help students get off to a good start in subjects like chemistry and biology.

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