South Korea has the 11th-highest life expectancy in the world and the second-least obese rate in the OECD. South Korea maintains a universal healthcare system that is rated as the fourth most efficient healthcare system out of the 55 nations rated as of 2016 after Hong Kong, Singapore and Spain according to Bloomberg.
Because of this, hundreds of foreign doctors live and study in Korean hospitals every year to develop their skill in a specific field before going back to their home country to perform.
If they study at the most prestigious hospitals in Seoul (Samsung Medical Center, Yonsei Severance Hospital, Seoul National University Hospital etc.) they are blessed with working with some of the best doctors, gain the Hospital’s high-status reputation and arrive back to their country with advanced knowledge and skills.
This will be 3-case series where I grabbed the chance to meet with foreign trainee doctors and discuss: why they came to Korea, what they are studying, and how their healthcare can be improved if compared with Korea’s.
|Nadiar Mussian in Seoul National University Hospital International Center|
Please introduce yourself.
My name is Doctor Nadiar Mussian. I am currently a trainee doctor studying in Seoul National University Hospital and I am from Kazakhstan. I am the chief of the Emergency Department in the hospital that I work in my country. My supervisor in Korea is Kwang-Woong Lee who is the Executive Director of the Seoul National University International Healthcare Center.
Why do you want to study in Korea?
I am a liver transplant surgeon and well as a general surgeon. For me, I believe that kidney is a unique organ in the human body with a field of interest. Korea is the number 1 for this field and it has the best outcomes in the world. Seoul National University Hospital is the best hospital in Korea for liver and kidney research, with the 3 best doctors working in this hospital. Lately they have been using the most modern surgical techniques and one of them is 3D pure laparoscopic donors. Live donor nephrectomy is a unique surgical challenge because it is performed on healthy donors that donate their kidneys to a patient who can be a relative. It is of great importance to keep the morbidity and mortality of live donors as low as possible and to harvest the kidney in optimal condition for transplantation. Very few countries use this in the world but 80% of these cases are used with successful outcomes. So I thought to myself that I should write my PHD thesis here for my benefit.
What are you studying?
I have just finished my PHD papers and I am actively studying on how to improve the survival of De Novo Cancer (later developed form of colon cancer) for liver transplanted patients. There is a medication called “immuno suppressant” that suppresses a patient’s immune system after any type of transplantation. With another person’s organs in your body, organ rejection can happen so it is essential to maintain its function, thus having to take this medication for the rest of your life. Without it, the rejection can develop and the organ can be destroyed. In a normal population, one person out of a million can develop colon cancer, but with this immune suppressant, the side effect has a higher incident to a new cancer called “De novo”. I am trying to decrease the number by promoting more colon surgery and new therapy and treatment. I am also studying more on the general surgical field. A few months ago there was a case where Seoul National University Hospital was harvesting two livers in different cities and clinics. I was the one of the members of this harvesting team and I used this chance to improve my surgical and clinical experiences.
How did you apply?
I applied to my own government by a GSE (government-sponsored enterprise) center for international programs. The organization who handles this is called ‘Bolashak’ which means future. Several thousand students worldwide passed this program.
What’s your visa status?
My visa is currently D-2 which is a student visa. My government pays for this and it was easy for me to just go to the Seoul immigration office and be given my alien registration card.
How long are you staying in Korea?
I have been here since 2015 and have nearly finished my 2-year program actually. I will leave for my home country in March this year. But I do plan to come back to Korea in the future to study more.
Is there anything that you were impressed about with Korea’s healthcare system? What is different if you compare it to your country’s healthcare?
Korea is much more advanced and the managing system works very well; you can notice that they are very prepared for any type of situation which is important especially working in a huge hospital. In Kazakhstan we have some steps to overcome if we want to be advanced like Korea but our country had only 25 years of Independence from the Soviet Union. But one positive aspect is that everything is for free in our country, even surgeries. Surgeries in Korea can cost up to 100,000 US dollars (about 20% of which is out-of-pocket expenses) but because of our Minister of Health who covers clinics financially, Kazakhstan has very cheap healthcare. Furthermore, Korean doctors work very, very hard to achieve their goals which I admire.
How do you have the funds to live in Korea?
First off, I would like to explain 3 types of financial support that foreign trainee doctors can be provided: your country’s government, the hospital that you will be studying in or by paying out of your own pocket. Thankfully my government has been supporting me for the last 2 years along with my family. My wife, my 3 children and I have been living in the hospital dorms and all in all it’s been a pleasure.
Is it hard communicating with Korean staff in the hospital? Did you learn Korean before you came?
Nearly everyone who works at the hospital: the doctors, nurses, clinicians, pharmacists all have studied medicine in English so we can communicate with each other well. I do know some Korean by living here for 2 years but I would rather study medicine than Korean.
What do you think will benefit studying in Korea and going back to your country?
Writing my PHD paper from Seoul National University Hospital proves your scientific level and knowledge. Studying in this hospital has the reputation that when I show my documents, doctors from around the world respect and take me seriously. I heard that even if you study in Moscow, Russia and show your documents, people may take a second look because they do not know the Hospital. Seoul National University Hospital is one of the best.
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