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Medical Training and More
August 26, 2010   
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As well as training medical students, the Pomeranian Medical University (PAM) in the northwestern city of Szczecin is known internationally for its research on stem cells, genetics, biochemistry and pharmacology.

The university’s genetics professor Jan Lubiński and his team have revolutionized clinical research into the treatment of breast and ovarian cancer patients. Prof. Mariusz Ratajczak, head of the university’s Physiology Department, has gained world acclaim for discovering a new type of stem cells in mouse bone marrow and human umbilical-cord blood.

14 courses in four faculties

Launched in 1948, the university today provides bachelor’s and master’s degree courses to students in four faculties: Medicine, Dentistry, Biotechnology and Laboratory Medicine, and Health Science. Students have a choice of 14 courses and three majors. New courses include cosmetology, physiotherapy, and medical biotechnology. Dental hygiene was added in 2008, followed by dietetics this academic year.

“All the courses are very popular and on average four to eight people compete for a place,” says the university’s spokeswoman Kinga Brandys. “We have also started a English-language course in dentistry. Previously English-speaking students were only able to study medicine. We have no plans to introduce more new courses in the near future but are aware that many young people are interested in pharmacy and psychology.”

Altogether 3,723 students are currently enrolled on courses, up from 3,208 last year, according to the university’s statistics.

The Pomeranian Medical University has more than 500 faculty members and almost 200 other staff. Among the academic staff are 43 professors and 54 lecturers with postdoctoral qualifications.

Since it opened after World War II, the university says it has trained 8,060 physicians and 3,314 dentists. A total of 1,113 researchers have obtained doctoral degrees and 196 have obtained postdoctoral qualifications. Fifteen scientists have received honorary doctorates.

Courses in English

The university also runs English-language courses that attracted over 500 foreign students this academic year. The students come from Norway, Denmark, Germany, Sweden, Canada, and the United States. Since 1996, when the university launched English-language courses, it has trained over 120 foreign students.

Before foreign students can start their courses, they must take extra classes in Polish, biology, chemistry and physics.

Prof. Tomasz Urasiński, dean of the English-language courses program, says that the university’s English-language courses are targeted at students from countries such as Norway and Sweden, whose governments financially support students who want to obtain medical training abroad.

“The university offers a high standard of education, and our degrees are recognized all over the world,” says Urasiński. “Before Poland joined the European Union, our graduates had to take qualifying exams abroad, but most passed these with flying colors.”

Cancer research...

Many of the university’s researchers are well known internationally. For example, Prof. Lubiński and his colleagues at the Department of Genetics and Pathomorphology are known for their clinical research into the treatment of cancer patients with a mutated BRCA1 gene, which, according to the researchers, is the cause of a high predisposition to breast and ovarian cancers.
Lubiński’s department has one of the world’s largest cancer data banks and recently purchased new state-of-the-art equipment for DNA diagnosis, using almost zl.18 million in funds from European Union coffers. Only a few institutions in the world have such equipment, according to Lubiński.

Prof. Bohdan Górski and Dr. Thierry van de Wetering, members of Lubiński’s team, have developed a new, automated method for diagnosing DNA. Thanks to this method, which replaced a previous manual procedure, genetic analysis can be done faster and more efficiently because the concentration and quality of the samples can be monitored straight away, the researchers say.

...and other discoveries

Prof. Ratajczak, who heads the university’s Physiology Department, has discovered a new type of stem cells in mouse bone marrow and human umbilical-cord blood. These cells become differentiated in the same way as embryonic cells, Ratajczak says. Thanks to this discovery it is no longer necessary to source stem cells from embryos, according to the researcher.

The Szczecin university has also made significant clinical inroads in invasive cardiology, surgery of the hand and gastroenterology.

“Our most outstanding graduates who remain to work at the university in their chosen career paths as scientists, teachers or researchers, are our future,” says the university’s rector, Prof. Przemysław Nowacki. “Today these young people work in our best laboratories. Most of them are researching modern medical issues to do with stem cells, genetics, biochemistry and pharmacology.”

Cross-border project

The Pomeranian Medical University is coordinating a 14-million-euro telemedicine project within the Pomerania Euroregion, a region of Europe on the south shore of the Baltic Sea divided between Germany and Poland. Some 35 medical institutions in northwestern Poland and northeastern Germany, 21 German hospitals, 11 Polish hospitals, and the West Pomeranian University of Technology in Szczecin are involved in the project, which focuses on medical diagnostics and therapy for cancer patients as well as those with heart disease and those who have suffered strokes. The project is co-financed by the European Regional Development Fund.

Anna Miszczyk
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