Midway through her two-month stay at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, Inken Scheewe is finding her summer vacation an educational one.
Scheewe, a 26-year-old medical student from Eutin, Germany, has spent about a month working with several local radiologists and is now beginning a four-week stint observing internal medicine specialists. She said she considers her stay here a good opportunity to see first-hand how American physicians work.
"In Germany, it's very difficult to get such a place in an American hospital," she said. "I want to learn the language and it's another way to get some practical experience."
Scheewe is in her fourth year at Christian Albrecht University, a medical school in Kiel, a city of about 250,000 people. She has an older brother, who is also studying to be a physician.
HER FATHER helped set up her stay at LMH. A high school teacher, he helped establish a sister city relationship between Lawrence and Eutin, a town of about 17,000 residents. He was part of a delegation that visited Lawrence in 1988.
Also, he has taught Kansas University students when they have studied in Eutin. With his Lawrence connections, he decided to contact the local hospital to see if she could observe there.
Scheewe said she initially had to overcome a language barrier so she could communicate with patients. Her work in radiology, which she said was more theoretical than one-on-one contact with patients, allowed her to become more at ease with the English language before having more patient contact while working in internal medicine.
"It was important for me to learn the language and the medical language," Scheewe said. "Now I hope I can talk to the patients and understand what they say to me."
ONE OF the major differences in health care between the two countries is the basic system, Scheewe said. In Germany, the majority of physicians are at the hospital, not commuting between the hospital and an office off the hospital grounds.
"There's no back and forth," she said. "It's very interesting to see how the physicians from the office came to the hospital and worked together."
Another significant difference is insurance.
"All people (in Germany) have insurance for everything," she said. "Insurance pays the money to the hospital and the hospital pays the physician. It's not so expensive for us to get insurance."
The size of the medical facility was also a change, coming from Kiel's large university hospital.
"The hospital's really, really big," she said of Kiel. "It's a university hospital. There's a really big building for every specialty."
BUT SHE enjoys the size of LMH and the attitude of its physicians and staff.
"There's more friendliness between the technical staff and physicians," she said. "In Germany, it's more formal."
Once she has completed her stay at LMH, she'll travel on to the West Coast for a short, no-work vacation, before returning to her studies in Germany in late October.
Her first two years of study have been mostly theory, before shifting into practical experience. She's facing her third major exam in March. During her sixth year, she'll work in a hospital as a student physician, followed by a year and a half as a physician in practice. Upon completion of that, she'll do a residency and start specializing in a certain field.
"When the two years are over, you hope you get a job," she said.
SHE THINKS her study at a U.S. hospital will help when she's job-hunting in Germany.
"German physicians and universities like it very much when students were in America," she said.