To quote Hippocrates: „Wherever the art of medicine is loved, there is also a love of humanity.“ He emphasizes how the connection between science and compassion for others‘ well-being is what makes the medical field extraordinary.
I had the privilege to experience both of these aspects during my three-week internship at Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo, Norway. Not only did I have the amazing opportunity to benefit from the wealth of medical knowledge of each of my supervisors, but I also witnessed the genuine care and compassion they put into their work.
During the first week, I spent time in the department „Abdominal Radiology“ under the guidance of Dr. Anselm Schulz, who is the group leader of the department. It was amazing to observe him and his work in the hospital. The tasks ranged from analysing CTs or MRIs to observing ultrasounds and even participating in minimal invasive surgeries. On the first day, Anselm provided me with books and recommended some websites, which proved immensely helpful for my understanding throughout the first week.
Typically, I would arrive at 8 o’clock and accompany Anselm to the Ultrasound or Intervention unit. Afterwards, I would have lunch with the department, and then check with Anselm for any interesting cases I could observe. I thoroughly enjoyed shadowing him because of his calm and patient approach with each individual, and his willingness to explain everything until I comprehended every aspect. Thanks to Anselm and the amazing team of consultants, radiographers, and residents, I never had to take a passive role. Someone always guided me, explained things, showed me, or even let me assist in small tasks.
I also had the opportunity of accompanying Dr. Ole-Einar Heieren (a senior consultant) several times in the following weeks. I appreciated shadowing him because he delved into the tiniest details while explaining, and I admired his communication with the patients.
One of the most frequently performed procedures in this department were ultrasound-guided needle biopsies. Despite the process being consistent – the doctor inserting the biopsy needle into the area of concern (identified through imaging) guided by ultrasound images – each patient’s reaction and behaviour made it a unique experience.
This week was beneficial both in terms of medical knowledge and on a personal level. I learned the fundamentals of imaging techniques, how to interpret specific images, and how to approach different patients based on their individual needs.
The second week started with me doing some pull-ups for a couple of waffles. I got to meet Professor Stephan Röhrl, a senior consultant in the orthopaedic department and the head of CIRRO (Centre for Implant and Radiostereometric Research). Through him, I gained insight into the workings of the orthopaedics department, observed how the emergency room operates and also got familiar with the pull-up bar in the department building.
Every morning at 7:45, I attended the department’s morning assembly for a quick briefing and case discussion. After that, I usually accompanied a resident to the emergency room and observed their interactions with and treatment of patients.
One of the highlights of this week was witnessing a surgery – an arthroscopic knee surgery to repair a torn meniscus. Typically, surgeons would make two small incisions – one for the arthroscopic camera and one for the tools – to suture the torn sections together. However, in this case, the meniscus was severely damaged, necessitating the removal of the compromised cartilage and a reconstruction of the meniscus. It was nearly a three-hour process, and it was fascinating to watch, especially because the surgeons explained everything in detail and patiently answered all of my questions. The atmosphere was always warm and welcoming. I never hesitated to ask questions or engage in conversations. All in all, it was an amazing week filled with valuable insights.
During the third week, I returned to the radiology department, this time under the guidance of Dr. Bettina Hanekamp, a senior consultant in abdominal radiology. Under her supervision, I gained a wealth of knowledge about imaging and interpreting various images. This week greatly benefited my research paper, which is also centred in the radiology department, due to my enhanced understanding of certain processes and my increased efficiency in identifying issues in CT or MRI images.
I was also fortunate enough to meet Professor Dinesh Varma in the third week, currently serving as the Deputy Director of Radiology and Head of Trauma & Emergency Radiology at the Alfred & Monash University in Melbourne. He is presently on sabbatical, taking the opportunity to broaden his knowledge by studying medical practices worldwide. One morning, we both had some free time, and I received a private lesson in brain and upper body anatomy. He explained how arteries and veins traverse the body and how one can identify various issues in CT or MRI images, such as a brain bleed or how you could tell by what an injury was caused, such as a knife wound or a gun wound, just by looking at the damage inside the person.
Apart from the internship, I also explored Oslo extensively. I typically had a few hours after work for sightseeing and city exploration. Oslo offered the bustling and lively city atmosphere alongside tranquil and serene natural spots. Especially in terms of nature, Oslo had it all. You could go hiking in nearly untouched places, swim in the ocean, and then take a leisurely stroll in one of the many woods. Even though the weather wasn’t always ideal, there was always something to do. One of the highlights was the new library by the coast. With over five floors, it was very modern.
On the top floor, you could sit by the windows, enjoy the view of the ocean and the city, play chess, read, or simply savour a cup of coffee. I also had the privilege of seeing Edvard Munch’s famous painting „The Scream“ in the Munch Museum, which was an impressive building with multiple floors and a well-thought-out concept as well. And one of the loveliest parts of Norwegian culture, in my opinion, will always be the trolls you can find everywhere.
While Norway isn’t very far from Germany, I did notice some cultural differences. In Oslo, everyone addressed each other by their first names, and there’s no equivalent to formal address („Siezen“). People were more open and welcoming to foreigners and strangers in general. Additionally, the work ethic was distinct from the German approach. Over the course of the three weeks, a consistent message from everyone at the hospital resonated: „Prioritize quality of life over quantity.“ The goal with every patient was to help them lead a fulfilling life, even if it didn’t extend as long as it might have with a different approach involving more surgeries and extended hospital stays.
I would like to extend my gratitude to every individual who made this internship so memorable. This includes not only the surgeons and doctors, but also the residents, nurses, and patients, all of whom collectively contributed to making this a wonderful experience. My deepest appreciation goes to Anselm and Stephan for their guidance and mentorship. Particularly to Anselm, from whom I learned so much, and who never made me feel unwelcomed or burdensome for needing explanations.
My advice for future students would be to initiate the search for an internship early, as you may encounter a few rejections before securing one. Avoid fixating on a specific internship; be open to all possibilities. If you’re under 18, especially if you’re seeking an internship abroad, you may need to leverage connections. Beyond that, seize every opportunity during the internship and don’t hesitate to ask questions. Another piece of advice is to be prepared to cook for yourself. This may sound like a joke, but trust me, it is one of the biggest challenges.