July 19, 2010
Visiting students crowded around the patient to observe a doctor performing an endoscopy. The operating room resembled a jumbled office, with fax machines and copiers and nurses drinking coffee. Other doctors would drop in to get a second opinion about their own cases. At the busy, underfunded public hospital in Poznan, Poland, this was universal health care.
“It’s not perfect, but it’s working the kinks out,” says biology major Snigdha Toodi, who toured hospitals in Poland and Germany during fall 2009 as part of SMU-in-Copenhagen. The President’s Scholar, who also has minors in chemistry and math, participated in the Medical Practice and Policy Program at the Danish Institute for Study Abroad, where her courses included human health and disease, the complexity of cancer, marine biology and Russian literature.
“I never thought I would be able to travel to Denmark and learn about health care, and that experience has definitely contributed to my overall desire to go into medicine,” says Toodi, who is from Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
As the health care reform debate heightened in the United States, Toodi had the opportunity to explore Denmark’s publicly funded universal health care system, with class visits to hospitals and general practitioners. She says she learned that the Danish system is efficient and technologically advanced but also has its share of problems – such as a shortage of doctors in rural areas, a lack of coverage for immigrants and the high taxes required to support it.
“There are flaws in every system,” she says. “When you talk to the Danish people, they aren’t completely happy with it – just like Americans aren’t completely happy with theirs.”
Toodi is working as a doctor’s scribe this summer at a Baton Rouge hospital and applying to medical schools.
Larry Ruben, professor of biological sciences, says he was impressed by Toodi’s commitment to medicine during his cell biology course. “Her abiding interest seems to stem from her desire to help others and from her appreciation of the technical and intellectual components of health care,” he says.
Toodi says that during her time in Denmark, she observed close, long-term relationships between doctors and patients that she also hopes to develop as a doctor – relationships in which patients are active and the doctor is egoless.
“To me it is important to know where the patient is coming from, what their financial position is and how they view their health care system as a whole,” she says.
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