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In Review

Global Rochester: Poland A medical exchange program links European and American neurology training.
globalINTERNATIONAL MEDICINE: Rochester neurologist Ralph Józefowicz talks with Jagiellonian medical student Mark Prodger. (Photo: Adam Fenster)

For 20 years, Ralph Józefowicz, professor of neurology, has been traveling to Kraków, Poland, as part of a medical exchange program he founded between Rochester and Jagiellonian University. He received the Polish university’s Merentibus Medal last year in recognition of his services to the school.

Rochester and Poland

People

5 current students

15 alumni living in Poland

8 student Fulbright recipients since 2002

33 study abroad undergraduates in last decade

The Skalny Center

The Skalny Center for Polish and Central European Studies is celebrating its 20th anniversary. Founded in 1994 through a grant from the Louis Skalny Foundation and housed in the Department of Political Science, it offers a variety of programs in research, education, and community outreach, including summer study at Jagiellonian University, courses by visiting faculty from Kraków, the Skalny Lecture and Artist Series, and the Polish Film Festival, an annual, five-day festival showcasing some of Poland’s best films and featuring actors and directors who speak about their work.

Thirty professors have visited from Poland through the Skalny Center, teaching and doing research for a semester or academic year. Among the participants: Grzegorz Kolodko, former prime minister of Poland, and Henryk Szlajfer from Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. In November, Andrzej Mania, vice rector of Jagiellonian University, came to Rochester to celebrate the anniversary. And seven Rochester postdoctoral fellows have traveled to Poland for international relations research.

Since the program began in 1995, 111 Rochester medical students and 58 Rochester neurology residents have taught neurology in Kraków, while 170 Jagiellonian University students have traveled to Rochester for clinical electives. The two universities have also hosted eight medical exchange conferences in Kraków and Rochester.

“Our students and residents will tell you it’s the best experience they had in school. The future of medicine is international. And when you go outside your own country, you see that certain things are very different, and some are very similar,” says Józefowicz.

Raised in a Polish-American community in Brooklyn, with grandparents who emigrated from Poland, Józefowicz grew up bicultural and bilingual.

He first traveled to Kraków, Rochester’s sister city, in 1989, when he and a colleague were invited to Kraków Children’s Hospital to explore the creation of an exchange program. In 1992, Józefowicz received a Fulbright Scholarship, the first physician to receive a Fulbright to Poland. He calls his year at Jagiellonian University a “phenomenal experience.”

The university, which celebrated its 650th anniversary in 2014, is central Europe’s second-oldest. In 1993, it established its School of Medicine in English. Józefowicz was invited to organize and teach the program’s neurology clerkship; he travels each year with Jeffrey Lyness, professor of psychiatry and senior associate dean for academic affairs at the School of Medicine and Dentistry and now brings 10 medical students and six neurology residents.

“The European approach to teaching medicine is more theoretical,” he says. Rochester students function as teaching residents, teaching how to take a medical history, perform a neurological exam, and present a patient, while residents perform as teaching attending physicians. The program brings up to 16 Polish students to Rochester each year for three months of mostly clinical work.

“I teach them neurology, but they also learn a lot of clinical skills

. Students there don’t have responsibility for patients. We teach them how to interpret symptoms, how to work up a patient,” says Józefowicz, adding that these principles are now being applied in the Kraków medical school. “Poland is a leading country in medical education reform in Europe. We’ve introduced problem-based learning, and the changes we’ve made here have influenced medical education there.”

–Kathleen McGarvey