NUS students got an insight into how the healthcare systems in Hungary and Austria meet the citizens’ needs when they went on a Study Trip for Engagement and Enrichment (STEER) to Central Europe. Co-organised by NUS Pharmacy and NUS International Relations Office, 28 NUS Pharmacy undergraduates participated in this inaugural Faculty of Science programme from 28 May to 6 June to gain a holistic appreciation of the two countries.
Led by NUS Pharmacy Associate Professors Chui Wai Keung and Christina Chai, the group visited various pharmacies and hospitals, as well as Semmelweis University in Hungary and Universität Wien in Austria.
The students were struck by the Hungarian health system, where the emerging economy’s left-leaning roots help subsidise those requiring financial assistance. The carefully planned system caters to the majority’s needs, an approach that relatively rich Singapore can take a leaf from.
The students appreciated the importance of skills learnt in their syllabus during their call at the hospitals and pharmacies. The traditional pharmacies in capital Budapest follow the Hungarian Pharmacopoeia, and pharmacists continue to compound preparations for patients. This practice has mostly disappeared in Singapore, where pharmacies now buy prepacked preparations from pharmaceutical companies.
The team did some sightseeing, marvelling at the blue Danube which divides Budapest into Buda and Pest. The Hospital in the Rock, built in the hills under Buda Castle, served multiple purposes throughout its lifetime, from a hospital to a self-sufficient nuclear bunker. The ingenious Hungarians secretly refilled the fuel tanks in this hospital through a pipe laid in a field of flowers, such that the watering truck also fed the fuel pipe simultaneously.
The Singapore youths interacted with students at Universität Wien and were amazed that their more laid-back peers could take exams at their own pace with no time limit to graduation. This relaxed approach to life extends to the afternoon coffee break, very much a part of Vienna’s culture.
During their stop at Vienna’s Research Center for Molecular Medicine, the visitors were impressed by the generous laboratory funding, a reflection of Austria’s understanding of the impact of research.
Year 1 Pharmacy student Yeo Jia Qi who participated in the programme said, “The best parts of STEER Europe 2016 were the memorable learning experiences and new friendships formed among local students, professors and foreign students.” She added that having participated in the programme, she has gained a greater appreciation for Europe’s rich history.
The NUS students returned from their trip enriched, humbled that they still have much to learn from the ingenuity of the West.
By Goh Zhang-He, NUS Pharmacy Year 1