A conference which connects medical students from similar backgrounds

Monday 10 April 2017

The V4 conference was organised by the Hungarian Medical Students’ Association for the first time at the „Hungarian riviera”, Balatonfüred from 6-9 April.

Polish, Slovakian, Czech and Hungarian medical students gathered to learn about each country’s healthcare system, to exchange ideas and to get to know each other. The main professional theme of the conference was cardiology, so the organisers invited the most renowed professors of cardiology from each country.

Károly Szász, the Chancellor of Semmelweis University, Dr. László Hunyady the Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Semmelweis University and Jarosław Bajaczyk the Deputy Director of the Polish Institute in Budapest held the opening speeches at the conference. Áron Bartha, the chairman of the organising comittee explained that the conference would not have been held without the financial support of Semmelweis University, Ministry of State for Education, Hungarian Society of Cardiology and the Polish Institute in Budapest.

The V4 or Visegrad group used to stand for a political and cultural alliance of these Central European countries, but with this conference, it could be extended to healthcare as well. The name of the group dates back to 1335, when Hungarian, Czech and Polish rulers agreed to create a new commercial route to gain access to other European markets.  The collaboration among these four nations still exists, as the Visegrad Group was established in 1991. Due to the countries long and shared history the political, economic, and energy cooperation is still highly important nowadays.

The main goal of the conference was to connect the medical students of the V4 group and to establish a continuous collaboration among them. We not only share connected history, but we also have similarities in our healthcare systems, in financing healthcare and mortality rates as well. „With this conference we wanted to build a platform for thinking together about the problems we share and we also wanted to teach each other the good practices coming from V4 countries” - said Áron Bartha, the chairman of the organising committee.

The professional theme of the conference is extremely relevant and easily comprehendible regarding the mortality rates. According to the WHO, between 2000 and 2012, cardiovascular diseases were responsible for 50% of the proportional mortality rates in the Czech Republic. Although this number varies slightly, being 49% in Poland and Hungary, 54% in Slovakia, our countries are in similar situation compared to other European countries. Ischaemic heart disease and stroke death rates are generally higher in the Central European region.

Professor Béla Merkely, the Vice-President of the European Society of Cardiology said that their generation has solved the issue of acute myocardial infarction and the new generation would solve the issue of atrial fibrillation. In his presentation, he argued for a centralized healthcare and explained the advantages of a centralized system through the example of Hungarian cardiovascular care. Centralized system can provide higher patient safety as more experienced doctors have the chance to treat patients at a high-level centre.

„Centralized system can also provide a solution for the lack of professionals” said Professor Miloš Táborský, the President of Czech Cardiology Society. Registries and studies show that high-volume centres are better, as they exhibit smaller complication rates and they are usually the pioneers by introducing new procedures and technologies instead of the smaller centres. Professor Miloš Táborský demonstrated a great example of training good professionals by showing how they teach medical students at the Palacký University of Olomouc.  As they put more of an emphasis on practical training, the medical students have more opportunities to experience real clinical cases.

Professor Tomasz Rechciński, the President-Elect of the Lodz Region Polish Cardiac Society, talked about the advantages of a decentralised cardiovascular care. The decentralised system costs more but the main benefit is that it provides a centre, which is closer to the patients. The main question is the size of the population when making a decision between centralized or  decentralised system.  If the patient pool is big enough to make worth it building more centres, then the doctors would also have a chance to practice on the same number of patients, which is enough for having a good patient safety.

The problems of the health system in the Central European countries are connected to the financial deficit. “One of the main challenges is that the economic performance of the countries in the region is relatively low compared to other EU members”- said Gergely Merész, a health economist at the Health Services Management Training Centre.
The same technologies are offered in major EU markets, and the price of health interventions is about the same for all countries in the EU.  One of the most important questions is how to ensure the market access for innovative technologies, while keeping the expenses at a reasonable level.

Besides the financial deficit, V4 countries also share the problem of the lack of professionals. The issue of young doctors’ migration has come up time-to-time at various presentations and workshops during the conference. A few years ago, the competitive Western European payment was considered as one of the most important factor when young doctors decided to go abroad. Nowadays, some young doctors say that the biggest problems are the poor patient safety and the long working hours due to doctor shortage.  The growing private sector, however, is a great new opportunity, which can help young doctors stay and work in their home countries.

The theme of the professional workshops was cardiovascular prevention. More specifically, atrial fibrillation, sudden cardiac death and acute myocardial infarction. The Czech, Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian medical students worked in small groups and developed health education programmes, and they also put an emphasis on the different information demand and channels of different age groups. Their task was to build a communication strategy which can take cardiovascular prevention to all levels of society, from primary school students to pensioners. The attendants also had the chance to improve themselves at soft skill trainings as well. They could practice public speaking, and also had the chance to learn how to look for up-to-date information easily. Moreover, the medical students could also attend to training about successful project management.

The main objective of the conference has been fulfilled, as the Czech, Polish, Slovakian and Hungarian medical students made a commitment and became determined about organising similar professional programmes in the future. During the time they are also looking forward to a closer cooperation within the IFMSA (International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations). „Actually, we didn’t even need to have a closing ceremony at the conference. There was no actual ending, because this is just the beginning of the cooperation between the four medical students’ associations. If this cooperation can continue its work in the future, we will certainly organise more similar professional events, too.”-said József Hajnes, the president of the Budapest Medical Students’ Association.