Case History Course

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07th february 2009

Theory at the Patient:
PhD students of the GRK1172 test at the Case History Course the real world

In which direction goes my research? Who will profit from it? Am I able to find new therapies? Can I estimate the consequences? Lots and lots of questions young researched of the GRK1172 pose themselves almost all day every day while thinking for weeks about cell development and after set-backs they have to motivate themselves to find new solutions. For a change, everything revolved around patients for the 16 PhD students of the GRK1172 for two days.

Real Medical Cases

The yearly Case History Course, taking place for the fourth time now in the Georg-Speyer-Haus, is a very much appreciated guide to research related to real life. Here real medical cases including diagnosis and therapy are presented by the treating clinician. In particular for non-medics, i.e. biologists, pharmacists and chemists, additional medical topics are prepared to familiarise them with patient-oriented work. For them this course is an essential and also exciting part of the GRK1172-programme.

Teamwork needed

In groups of four, the PhD students received a medical case. The treating clinician or a one familiar with the patient presented the first interview with the patient and the first established symptoms. In the case of Dr. Ursula Dietrich (Georg-Speyer-Haus) and Dr. Thessa Lennemann (HIV-Centre), it was a child of an African-European couple with fever, inflammation of the intestines and a low count of CD4 T-helper cells. An animated discussion started about possible disease patterns. Specific questions were posed to the two supervisors, textbooks and the internet were consultated and after over two hours a diagnosis was given: HIV. Other possible diseases such as leukaemia, an autoimmune disease or a CMV-infection could be excluded at an early stage due to a decisive factor: the child was smaller than normal and had come to a stop in growth after an initial good development. When the question about the result of an HIV-test came from the PhD students, the case was clear. The clinical picture, decisive diagevailic parameters and differential diagnosis were presented to the other groups with a powerpoint presention.

New Ideas for Therapy

Now the next Stepp came for the GrK1172 students: therapies were to be identified and new therapy possibilities had to be developed. “That is a really crazy part because with the existing knowledge about therapies something completely new shall be generated” said Dr. Ursula Dietrich who was impressed by the fast and thorough work of her group. At the end of a two days Case History Course the GRK 1172 PhD students presented their innovative therapy suggestions and discussed them with the other student groups, the clinicians and the researchers. Some interesting suggestions were however refuted by theoretical knowledge or already done research which has shown sever side effects during therapy.

Seeing aims and focussing on them

A good coordination within the group for this course as well as in science in general is indispensable. “That is what the PhD students appreciate: it is taken from real life” as Dr. Ursula Dietrich said. In this year’s Case History Course were a lot of “new-comers” who have been doing their PhD for a year or even less, although this course is more for thoese indented towards the end of their PhD project. Nonetheless all had take it well into their stride. The HIV researcher of the Georg-Speyer-Haus was positively surprised, and enthusiastic about the scientific future of the young scientist.

Lecture as Preparation

Of course such an ambitious course cannot be done without any preparation. PD Dr. Ulrike Köhl (clinic for pediatrics) was involved in the preceding lecture series “Basics in Medicine & Pharmacology”: “The topics went through all areas of medicine. We tried to cover most of it.” Therefore the GRK1172 students came well prepared and called the course “very stimulating”. Kerstin Rose who was in the group of Dr. Ursula Dietrich and the HIV-positive child, was enthusiastic. “I really enjoyed to find out something new” the Diplom-biologist said who is in the GRK1172 since March 2008.