This year the EFNS project of individual visits to departments of neurological excellence is already running the 12th annual course. Having started in 2001 with the first 21 grantees, it gradually developed up to 82 grants per year in 2010. The total of grants issued by the EFNS till March 2013 results in the respectable number of 708, representing expenses of €1,062,000.-. In addition to this sum of net grants (€1500.- each) reimbursements for travel expenses can be counted, climbing up to approximately additional €150,000.-.
It is time to ask, what this generosity has achieved in terms of educational progress and scientific contacts.
Colleagues from 43 countries have taken part. Most frequently from the following countries: Russia 79 participants, Romania 74 p., Poland 64 p., Georgia 47 p., Serbia incl. Montenegro 47 p., Armenia 37 p., Moldova 32 p., and Ukraine 32 p. On the other hand there was only one participant from Scandinavia, France, Belgium, Switzerland, and Slovenia. Also our members from the very East harvested from this chance: 7 participants from Azerbaijan and 3 participants from Uzbekistan. The EFNS wanted to foster neurology and mutual collaboration also in African states on the Mediterranean coast. Thus young neurologists from Egypt (11), Syria (8), Tunisia (5), and Morocco (5) have participated in the past years.
In the beginnings, 10 years ago, most of the colleagues interested in this programme were not yet experienced enough to initiate contact with the host department and needed help from the EFNS office. We have about 200 collaborating chairmen from departments all over Europe, who are ready to welcome visitors for a 6-week stay. Not all our educational visits are in English, since the most frequently visited countries are next to United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Belgium. To match local languages with the knowledge of the attendees combined with their interest in neurological subspecialties was a hard task at some times.
In the past years most of the applicants managed to find a hosting institute, which has now become mandatory.
In general, the success of the project depends on the friendly willingness of the hosting teams to help. And this is practically always the case. Most departments do care for a rich and colourful itinerary, sometimes including also attendance at external conferences and seminars.
We have carried out a survey among grantees of the last 3 years. 200 questionnaires were sent out and 106 colleagues responded to questions regarding their satisfaction and scientific development. In summary 89% reported a fruitful effect on their everyday work, 65% of them evaluating this help as optimal on a 5-degree scale. The experience of improving own publications appeared to be less effective: to 45.8% it was useful, to 39.4% partly, to 15.1% not at all. 46% of the participants found the visit effective also for their future attendance at congresses, 31.2% partly and 21.9% found it irrelevant. What we also expected was an enhancement in the cultivation of languages. 71% of the colleagues agreed fully, 28.2% partly. In terms of supporting further research 66.7% felt they had gained important experience, 23.3% partly. 75% of visitors appreciated the contact with a foreign hosting department, enabling a continuing co-operation.
For the team in the organising office it was a pleasure to read the final reports that are from now on also posted in Neuropenews. Participants mostly testified enthusiastic experience and relations in the department. From a total of 708 visits only one single case ended in a misunderstanding between visitor and host. All others found the experience memorable and enriching. In the comments below you will find some examples.
Information on the application process 2014 can be found on the EFNS Website.
Magda Dohnalová is Manager of the EFNS Branch Office Prague and organising the D-D Co-operation Programme and the Spring School.
Comment from Yan Fris, Moscow, Russia
…like to thank the EFNS for the great opportunity to visit one of the best European neurological departments. For me it was extremely useful to be deeply involved in the treatment process in the neurological centre with the wide range of neuro-scientific areas. ……compare it to the Russian system of stroke care. It is my great pleasure to thank all the members of neurological team of the clinic, who helped me to feel myself very comfortable. My special gratitude is to Dr. Klaus Jahn, who was my mentor during the stay – he showed me all parts of neurology department, introduced me to all doctors, helped with all my problems, including the organization of my study “awareness about stroke”. The members of stroke unit team were very kind; …… I’d like to thank once again the EFNS for my wonderful time in München. I learned a lot of new things about modern neurology and I wish future DD program fellows to receive the same outstanding experience.
Comment from Vasselina Grozeva, Russia
It was the greatest career opportunity I have ever had. I am going to the same institution next year for 6 months. I am going to do a research project with them.
Comment from Shaimaa El Jaafary, Cairo, Egypt
I need to express my gratitude to you for giving me such a chance to visit this department and had a lot of experience in my life. My comment is we can increase the scope of the questionnaire to include: the cultural values, social activities, making new friends, as I’ve gained much concerning these points.
Comment from Dumitru Cernobrov, Chisinau, Moldova
…these weeks gave me more knowledge than 3 years of professional education in Moldova….
Comment from Daniel Bicu, Craiova, Romania
Everything in Linz was great (the clinical team, atmosphere, accommodation) and this experience was for me very good and interesting.
Gayane Avagyan, Yerevan, Armenia
For a participant like me (participant from post-soviet country) I never thought that I can see so many patients and have a chance to observe them and discuss every single case and learn. I also had a chance to be in other departments. I am lucky that I had such a wonderful supervisor and a team who worked with me. It was an experience that still has a huge impact on my career. If I had an opportunity to repeat, I would definitely take it.
Comment from Vitalie Chiosa, Chisinau, Moldova
…I would like to express my sincere appreciation to Prof. Margitta Seeck for her guidance, encouragement and continuous support throughout the course of this training. The extensive knowledge, vision, and creative thinking of Prof SEECK have been the source of inspiration for me throughout this work. It was very rich in possibilities and news; I learned a lot and I perfectionated my knowledge. I must thank all the members of the excellent hospital team. The friendship, enlightening discussions, and the overall atmosphere have made my stay at HUG pleasant and enjoyable.
Special thanks to Magda Dohnalova and EFNS for support…
Comment from Georgios Kontogounis, Kozani, Greece
The total experience was beyond my expectations. The whole staff of the department welcomed and made me feel as a long-standing member of their team. … The in-patient clinic was also a pleasant surprise. Its strong point is not the excellent facilities and equipment, but the friendly, co-operating and hard-working staff. The residents were always there for any question regarding the patients and very helpful despite their exhaustive work. The rest of the staff made me feel like home and were also very helpful.
Additional effort had to be made every day with the language, but it paid back. The medical and non-medical staff made an astonishing (and tiring) effort from the first day with explaining in English but in an environment with patients and fast procedures the knowledge of the native language is very important.
In conclusion, I thank EFNS for the opportunity and Prof. Alain Maertens de Noordhout, who from the first to the last day gave me the opportunity to attend and really participate in the work of a high-level very organized department.
Comment from Nina Latesheva, Moscow, Russia
The programme has been a very valuable experience for me and it has really transformed my way of thinking on many types of headaches. Inspired by the way doctors at the London clinic communicate with their patients about medications and lifestyle changes I even wrote a book on migraine in collaboration with my university tutor Prof Filatova after returing from London. Thank you very much!
Comment from Sabina Munasipova, Kazan, Russia
I would like to thank the EFNS and the hosting department, in particular, my supervisor Dr. Nick Gutowski for the opportunity to stay in the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital and obtain new knowledge and expand my range of interests in neuroscience.
I am sincerely grateful to my supervisor, for his courtesy and attentiveness to me during my educational visit and admire his professionalism. I would like to thank Dr. Elias Ragi for the warm welcome and the knowledge gained during his neurophysiology clinics.
It was very nice to be in the friendly and welcoming atmosphere of the neurology and neurophysiology departments at Exeter.
Comment from Delia Roxana Pop Ioansiu, Targu Mures, Romania
I describe this programme as an opportunity of my lifetime. It was a great experience for me. I learned so many new things practical and also theoretical, that later I used in my country. I had the chance to meet great people. The atmosphere was great, international and academic environment, open discussions with professors. This was a wonderful experience that I would recommend anyone not to miss it!
Thank you for giving me this chance!
Comment from Khurshidakhon Rasulova, Tashkent, Uzbekistan
This Program was very stimulating and helped me in my professional and academic career. I included some clinical and laboratory studies, in which I had fully participated, in my PhD thesis, which was succsessfully defended in 2010. I’m very thankfull to Professor Laszlo Vecsei for allowing me to use necessary materials and studies in my research. This Programme not only increased my knowledge and qualifications, but also increased professional and friendly ties within the neurological Community between Europe and Central Asia. Therefore, now, I am also one of members of Editorial Board of the European Medical, Health and Pharmaceutical Journal, Prague. I would like to express my deep gratitude to the EFNS and coordinators for this grant.
Comment from Ieva Sereike, Vilnius, Lithuania
It was one of the best personal and professional experience ever. I apply in my everyday practice what I have learned in Bern. I keep contacts with the doctors I have met there. I hope I will be able to receive the same training someday, because it had major impact on my work and personal beliefs.