Marian University Pre-Med and College of Osteopathic Medicine Students Experience a Hospital Shadowing Internship in Germany

by Glendal Jones | Aug 18, 2022

Many of us have heard of Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich, but what can you do in Rotenburg an der Wümme in Germany? If you’re a Marian University student, you can be involved in a medical shadowing internship.

This summer, eight Marian undergraduate and College of Osteopathic Medicine students are expanding their knowledge of surgical practices by taking part in a unique experience: shadowing a vascular and endovascular surgeon in Rotenburg, Germany for three weeks.

In 2019, Marian University collaborated with Michael Feldmann, MD, the head of vascular and endovascular surgery at the Agaplesion Diakonie Hospital in Rotenburg, to create a summer shadowing internship for pre-med and medical students at the hospital.

“These students are getting the worldly experience of a lifetime,” explained Wendy Westphal, Ph.D. Dr. Westphal is Marian University’s associate professor of German and former director of the Study Abroad program.

Pre-med Student Anne Hoffman ’24 agrees. “The best part of the experience was being at the table and truly seeing the surgeries firsthand,” Hoffman said. “I loved how I could also pop into other surgeries and watch a liposuction, or a neurosurgeon search for possible cancer on someone’s spinal cord,” Hoffman explained.

The hospital, which covers an extensive campus with 23 specialized clinics and more than 800 beds, is ranked as offering the highest level of care in Germany. Up to four students can take part in the internship during each of the two three-week courses. The small cohort allows the students to join Dr. Feldmann and his team in the operating theater during the operations. Students are housed in a dormitory affiliated with the hospital and are provided with bicycles so they can travel independently to and from the hospital each day. The unique experience is one medical student Paul Akre '25 says he would speak highly to other medical students. “I would immediately recommend this to anyone interested in medicine, especially if they want to go into surgery,” Akre said. “You’ll learn so much and will make friendships that will last. It was so hard to leave Feldmann’s and the vascular surgery group because of everything I learned and experienced.”

Dr. Westphal added the 2019 program was so successful, both parties agreed to make it a regular offering for Marian students to intern with Dr. Feldmann, now a Marian clinical professor of medicine. Then the Coronavirus came. Last summer, Dr. Westphal renewed the connections to Dr. Feldmann and his team while in Germany. Now, after a two-year, Coronavirus-induced hiatus, the German Hospital Shadowing Internship is up and running again. Undergraduates Anne Hoffmann and Lynn Tan and College of Osteopathic Medicine students Paul Akre and Andrew Ehrsam have recently returned from the internship.

Hoffmann was full of praise for all she learned in just three weeks. “It was such an amazing learning experience being right there at the table. I observed how different sutures are made. I learned that a port can be implanted for chemotherapy and also for dialysis.”

Akre points out, ““Dr. Feldmann is one of only a few surgeons globally who performs open aortic aneurysm repairs, and we saw two of these complex cases while abroad. This was amazing to witness and something very few other students may ever have an opportunity to see.”

Students say through the warm hospitality of Dr. Feldmann and his wife Michaela, they received an inside perspective on German life and culture. In addition to supervising their internship at the hospital, the Feldmanns supported the students’ cultural learning on the weekends by taking them to Berlin and Hamburg and hosting them for a German-style barbecue at their home in Bremen.

Dr. Westphal says she’s excited the internship program will be offered regularly, and believes the internship combines cultural learning with practical training and for those students who had taken German, the program gives them a chance to put their German language skills to use.

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