EMSA in Nature: Common doctorates across Europe

Dear EMSAi:

In today’s issue of NATURE magazine, we publish a letter in correspondence (Nature 528, 333; 2015) to the recent editorial “Ills of the system” (Nature 527, 7; 2015). The editorial discusses the “doctoral thesis requirement currently present in Germany, that medical students must fulfill if they want to call themselves Doctor of Medicine”, in regards to current plagiarism accusations to German Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen. To summarize its main point, the article states that the “antiquated” medical education system has to be “reformed”.

The situation in Germany is a bit unique in the context of doctorates. In the majority of European countries, a vocational doctoral degree is given after successful completion of medical studies, going hand in hand with the license to practice medicine. In Germany, medical students have to prepare and complete a doctoral thesis to acquire a doctoral degree (“Dr. med.”). This seemingly positive requirement has very impractical consequences, “ills” as described in the article, especially when it comes to the notion that practicing clinical medicine and medical science, although having common points, are two different career pathways and require different trainings. Unfortunately, when this issue was sounded by  German Higher Education and Science Institutes, the authorities and medical schools either did not change their approaches or made very little improvements.

Following our at least ten year old commitment of students’ advocacy in the field,  we at EMSA European Board, namely Benedikt Pelzer, Medical Science Director, and Stefan Hardt, Policy Making Officer, took the initiative and with the help of Medical Education Pillar, developed a supporting correspondence to aforementioned editorial, where we bring forward a European approach with common vocational and academic doctorates. We defend that medical students should be trained both in research and clinical medicine and that students who want to work in the scientific field must be enabled to pursue an appropriate PhD training. In conclusion, ills of the system that must be cured soon. We are setting up a strategy for more intensified advocacy in the upcoming months that will expand the viewpoint not only to Germany but to the European continent, and aim for a European approach in medical science and education.

Should you have any questions, ideas or comments on advocacy efforts of EMSA, please do not hesitate to reach us via: policy@emsa-europe.eu. All directors are also available for your pillar based ideas.

Picture: Cover of the December 17, 2015 issue of Nature; copyright is hold by the Nature Publishing Group / Audun Rikardsen www.audunrikardsen.com.

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