Croatia has a long history in public health. It started quarantining ships in the 1300s after recognizing the relationship between new arrivals and disease outbreaks. Now those centuries of innovation are being shared with University students and staff.
Doctors and researchers from the University of Zagreb, Croatia joined members of the University’s Center for Global Health and the GHSU/UGA Medical Partnership for a symposium to foster future collaboration.
“The primary goal was to establish a stronger partnership to launch new ideas – to launch new initiatives and new programs,” said Davor Jezek, a professor of histology and embryology at Zagreb.
Richard Schuster, director of the Center for Global Health, said the symposium was a great success and had good attendance from undergraduate and graduate students who engaged in discussion. He said students and faculty had much to learn from other health care systems.
“If you study what’s called string theory, there are those who contend that there are multiple universes. We live in only one of them,” Schuster said. “And that to me is an analogy for health care in the United States versus other countries. When you go to other countries, what you learn is that there’s a whole universe of successful, effective health care delivery. And we can identify best practices there that we might bring back here to the United States.”
Carol Cotton, director of traffic safety research and evaluation and the event’s coordinator, said the Croatians’ view of the role played by physicians is in some ways fundamentally different than in the United States.
“You’re not just a clinician,” she said. “Not only can you take somebody’s blood pressure or give them an insulin shot but you can educate them about how to keep their blood pressure under control, how to monitor their diet.”
Physicians go into medical school directly from high school and study for six years, she said. Public health topics, like prevention and epidemiology, are a crucial part of their curriculum. She said she hoped some of those practices could be employed in the U.S.
“The Global Health Center exists not only so we can learn about other health systems but also improve our own,” said Ali Hunt Freeman, a second-year master’s student in health policy and management. “And that’s something we talk about a lot is how important it is for medical professionals to understand public health and vise versa.”
Despite differences in approach, some issues that health providers face are similar on both sides of the ocean, like the awkwardness associated with talking about reproductive problems.
Jezek’s closing speech centered on his research in treating male infertility with biopsies. He said in the European Union, 15 percent of couples are infertile. Seven to 8 percent of those infertilities are caused by male infertility, which is sometimes the result of cancer.
He said Croatian health care providers had problems getting people to talk about conception issues and faced issues getting licenses for his research.
“We are a Roman Catholic country, and people do not want to talk about infertility,” Jezek said. “They are reluctant to talk to a doctor.”
In order to increase collaboration on public health issues and others like rural development and agriculture, Cotton and others have set up a fund to encourage work in Croatia.
“During 2005, at the end of that year, we set up an endowment for the University of Georgia – it’s called the UGA Croatia partnership – we gave $500,000 for all kinds of study, whether it’s students – graduate or undergraduate students – faculty or staff,” Cotton said.
Jezek would like to see more exchange of students, postgraduates, faculty and projects.
“We were much surprised by the cordial approach and direct, spontaneous approach of your people,” he said of his visit. “That’s highly appreciated because we from south Europe usually do the same to our guests. So it was really the grand hospitality we enjoyed here.”
So he responded with some of his own.
“I would like to extend cordial invitation to students and faculty to join us in Zagreb, to work with us,” he said. “I am much looking forward to the next group of students that will come on route in Croatia.”
Posted November 12, 2012.
Originally published in the Red & Black newsletter