WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Leaders of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and the Medical University of Vienna have formed an affiliation in hopes that contrasts between the two schools and countries can lead to better ways of providing medical education and health care.
“Neither of our countries or societies can afford too many more solutions achieved through trial and error,” said Richard H. Dean, M.D., president and CEO of Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the medical school. “I see the emerging affiliation between our two universities as an important opportunity to create interchange of people and ideas.”
The two schools are planning exchange programs for medical and graduate students and professors that could begin as early as 2006.
“The partnership is the result of fruitful research cooperation between leading clinical scientists from both universities during the last decade,” said Dr. Wolfgang Schutz, rector and professor of Medical University of Vienna. “In addition, we should learn from each other by intensifying students exchange as well, since both countries have high health care standards that are achieved by different approaches.”
The affiliation is the result of Dean’s long-term relationship with the Medical University of Vienna. He has been a visiting professor and surgeon there and was recently awarded an honorary doctorate. The idea for the agreement was generated during a visit by the medical university’s leaders to Wake Forest earlier this year.
Dean said he is fascinated by the different approaches to medical education and health care delivery taken by the United States and Austria and how each country is struggling to manage shortcomings in its system. He said the collaboration will expose future leaders and physicians to new ideas and will benefit their ultimate mission to serve mankind.
“We share a common heritage based on our inborn sense of societal consciousness and concern for the health of our fellow man,” said Dean. “Yet our respective nations’ systems to fulfill our profession’s obligations are dramatically different and could be described as opposite poles.”
Austria, like many European countries, has a government-sponsored health care system. Yet, private health care insurance is emerging in these countries to serve more affluent citizens who demand personalized care.
In contrast, Dean said, the backbone of medical care in the United States is the concept of a private physician providing fee-for-service care, yet more than 45 million citizens cannot afford insurance to access the system.
He said the collaboration is a way for the two schools to learn from each other without repeating each other’s mistakes. The exchanges, which will last up to six weeks for students and professors and a year for researchers, will involve two faculty members and four to six students each year.
“This will allow them to see things from a broader perspective and for our two institutions to come to a common ground,” said Dean.
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About Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center: Wake Forest Baptist is an academic health system comprised of North Carolina Baptist Hospital and Wake Forest University Health Sciences, which operates the university’s School of Medicine. The system comprises 1,187 acute care, psychiatric, rehabilitation and long-term care beds and is consistently ranked as one of “America’s Best Hospitals” by U.S. News & World Report.