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WISE Alumni Testimonials

Highlights of Alumni Interviews

What made you choose to participate in W.I.S.E.?

“Frankly there were not that many options at the time I participated in WISE program, but later on things changed.” – Jan Cerny

The need for help to achieve my academic goals in the US. I needed help with residency program interviews (and a roof to stay dry).” – Bob-Paul Erdelyi

“I had a will to try something new and different.” – Igor Fedor

“It was a unique opportunity to gain professional education outside of the old (bad) communist scholar system.” – Marian Heczko

“I wanted to get some research experience in the USA, the citadel of medical research.” – Zoltan Huszti

“I always wanted to live and work abroad for a while. I think this is an enormously useful experience, both in the professional and private life. People can learn a lot about the world and themselves by spending time in a different country. WISE seemed to be as a good starting point as any.” – Timea Kovats

“I had wanted to have medical experience abroad since my first year of medicine. Following the political overturn in 1989, I tested several possibilities and W.I.S.E. was on of those that worked. Thanks again to Carl for the offer and for the great work he did with us. If this is the right point to say thank you, I am doing it right now.” – Jan Kristek

“I was curious both about organization of the medical system in USA as well about the country itself. This program offered good opportunity to confront my ideas about the USA with reality.” – Krzysztof Laudanski

I wanted to get practice in research in a country where research is being done on the top level. Further I was very much interested in the American culture, people, their work, thoughts and everyday life.” – Attila Markus

“The opportunity to learn more.” – Vladimir Nikolic

I wanted to get acquainted with health care system in the US and I also felt I needed a little break from my studies at the medical school.” – Eva Pospisilova

“I heard about the program from friends who were former WISE students. I wanted to do research and test my skills for research before applying for residency.  I wanted to improve my English, and have a ‘life-training’ experience, alone in foreign country, taking care of myself.” – Peter Svec

“The true story is that I am addicted to hi-tech. All this equipment just drives me crazy. So I heard about WISE from my friend, then called Dr. Hanson, and couple weeks later...Worcester, MA!” – Victor Zaporojan

How was the emphasis of your medical education in your home country different than that of your American colleagues? Do you feel that your previous medical education and training adequately prepared you for the work during your participation in the W.I.S.E. program?

“As last-year medical students in the Czech republic, we spend about 70% of our time in classrooms and the rest running grand rounds with the department head.  Only about 10% of our clinical time is spent doing bedside doctor "labor" - taking history, organizing investigations, discussing the cases and differential diagnosis, etc. The US way is more task-oriented; it emphasizes hands-on learning instead of memorizing symptoms of a syndrome that you might see only once in a lifetime.” – Ales Chrdle, Czech Republic

I found many similarities between Romanian and American medical education, although the training received during medical school is applied much better in the US.” – Daniel Danila, Romania

My medical education was fairly rigid and somewhat lacking in direct patient contact. I found myself spending a lot of time polishing my bedside manner (and Dr. Hanson helped a lot here, with rotations in his practice and the local ER). I believe that my basic medical education helped a lot, but it took a lot of jazz (improvising) and extra learning to get up to par with the Yanks, who were educated more along the lines of "throw them in the water from day one and let’s see if they can make it…"  I believe that this approach makes better clinicians, and people seem to like their doctors more in the US then back home. The low wage-poor job performance cycle seems to be unbreakable in some countries.” – Bob-Paul Erdelyi, Romania

US medical education system emphasizes more practical, clinical skills.  The system in my country was predominantly focused on theoretical knowledge, lacking enough patient exposure and problem-based teaching.” – Maros Ferencik, Slovakia

“My previous training experience was inadequate as compared to that of the U.S. medical students, or rather, it was incomparable.” – Marian Heczko, Czech Republic

“The Czech republic follows a 6-year system that starts after secondary school.  This means that our starting doctors are much younger.” – Jan Hruby, Czech Republic

“The Czech and American systems are a bit different. I admired, enjoyed, and had trouble with the American stress on the practical aspect of medical training; [as medical students] we had the virtual role of responsible postgraduate doctors under the strict and helpful eyes of our residents and attendings. After the necessary period of surprises and uneasy adjustment to the foreign system, I think I caught up with my American colleagues relatively quickly. To summarize, I have the feeling the Czech education prepared us quite well.” – Jan Kristek, Czech Republic

“I have found that the education system in the Czech Republic is on a very high level – a little bit more theoretical than in the US.  In my opinion, the biggest difference in the European system (of German root medicine) is the emphasis on tradition.” – Hynek Mergental, Czech Republic

“I was totally unprepared and had no research experience before I came to the US. Medical education in the US prepares the students perfectly for medical practice. They learn to do things. It is more academic in my home country. We know a lot but are unable to do anything practical when we graduate. American medical education prepares the students for life much better.” – Eva Pospisilova, Czech Republic

Medical education in Bulgaria was quite sufficient in terms of building a wide knowledge base, but most of the real advances in medicine were not widely available there. We could read about them but not practice them first-hand.” – Stefan Tachev, Bulgaria

“I think our medical training offers closer interactions between doctor and patient. It requires more analytical skills and a greater understanding of what is going on as compared to the American system which is like an industry: push the right button and get the result.” – Victor Zaporojan, Moldova

Did living in the W.I.S.E. community help you make the transitions that you had to make?

I guess so! Definitely seeing people that had been in my shoes before and who had made it so successfully helped me to transition to the new concept.” – Daniel Danila

Absolutely, every participant was there to help and I learned a lot more in a lot less time than it would have taken me to figure things out by myself (that's not to say that I admit to being slow after a few beers :)” – Bob-Paul Erdelyi

Yes, that's for sure.” – Igor Fedor

“Meeting people in Worcester helped me a lot, both in terms of my professional career (providing me with a resource of previous WISE students’ experiences) and my social life (hiking, travelling, and trips with the guys form the WISE program).” – Maros Ferencik

“In my life, wherever I go, the most important factor for happiness or just to manage is the people whom I meet. So, of course it helped a lot that I lived together with people who were in the same situation, got similar education ,and we could give company and help to each other.” – Timea Kovats

“It definitely exposed me to many challenges which made me more flexible when meeting with other people.” – Krzysztof Laudanski

“I got all of the recommendations and knowledge that I was looking for from friends in the WISE community.” – Hynek Mergental

“Hearing that it’s not possible to make an American friend, and hearing the constant complaints about various ‘senseless’ things in the USA suggests that there was not a real transition going on.” – Vladimir Nikolic

“The WISE community is an excellent way to help new participants adjust to new conditions.” – Peter Svec

“Absolutely. It also helped me make some good friendships that I maintain to this moment.” – Stefan Tachev

“Living in the WISE community gave me a lot of support at the very beginning; it is really important to know that you are not alone. People around can give you lots of useful advice, cheer you up when needed, but also calm you down.” – Jiri Zvolanek

Sometimes, there are moments that come to symbolize adjustments in life, such as the meeting of cultures or the change from old to new. Do you have a story that describes the cultural, personal, or medical transitions that you were making while with W.I.S.E.?

“…we have a saying that when you want to learn how to swim, you first must jump into water (or somebody has to push you there).  If you survive as you start swimming, you will be fine.” – Jan Cerny

The ticket to Boston was one way only! Uncle Sxx, will you ever forgive me for this?” – Bob-Paul Erdelyi

“I really saw that almost everything is possible for patients in the hospital.  Day-to-day living [in the US] is extremely easy for people.  Here is a typical story: it is always necessary to have an ID card in the hospital.  In the Czech Republic, I would ask the office each week and I had to wait three months for it.  In Great Britain, it took three weeks.  And at UMass, they gave me an ID card within 10 minutes.” – Hynek Mergental

“The only transition I had to make was that I had to stop thinking as a ‘physician’ and had to start thinking as a ‘scientist’.” – Eva Pospisilova

“My WISE experience showed me the liberties that people in the US had long before we got them in Eastern Europe.” – Stefan Tachev

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