Here is a brief interview held between Swedish Health Care and one of its international medical students.
– Everyone expects a specialist consultant to be an old, or at least middle aged man, with grey hair.
Ahmed Al-Qahtani, a 30 year old (or should we say young?) plastic surgeon from Qatar, sits in the dining room outside his office at the University Hospital in Malmö, Sweden. He pulls his hand through the long black hair and laughs as he adds.
– I guess that´s not the case for me.
Recommended by a colleague back in Qatar, Ahmed Al-Qahtani came to Sweden four years ago to do his specialist training at the clinic in Malmö. In one year he will finish his studies and go back to his homeland.
So what has he learned during his time in Sweden?
– My colleague in Qatar told me a lot of good things about Sweden and the Swedish healthcare system, so when I came here my expectations were very high. In most cases I must say that they have been met.
– The biggest difference between the two countries is that in Sweden things are not given to you. You have to look for stuff yourself, find out about courses and surgeries you have to do. It´s a good way to do it, that gives you both freedom and responsibility, but if you are not used to it, it takes some time to learn.
In one year you will return to your hospital in Qatar as a specialist, do you think you have learned enough?
– It´s hard to say, you are always in a process of learning. Throughout the training I have been working alongside another doctor at the clinic. In the beginning I was more like an assistant to him, but during the last year I have had my own patients. I have done basic surgeries, like breast operations and removing tumours of the skin.
What challenges have you encountered during your time in Sweden?
– The language, of course. Since my skills in Swedish were not that good in the beginning I had to speak English. With my colleagues this was not a big issue, but the patients, especially the elderly, expected me to speak Swedish with them.
How did you cope with the language issue?
– Before I started the training I had some very basic courses in Swedish. Once my training started my teacher accompanied me at the clinic for 4-5 months, advising and correcting me while I was working with my patients. That helped me a lot. For the last two and a half years I have made a significant improvement. Now I speak Swedish with all my patients and I can go into discussions with my colleagues. I am convinced that the best way of learning a language is to talk to the people you meet.
What are your plans for the future?
– My contract says I have to go back to Qatar after finishing my training here in Sweden. It´s both in my own interest, as well as in Qatar’s, that I return home. Qatar is a small country, with few specialized doctors, so there is a great need for my skills, especially when it comes to pediatric surgery.
– I have been thinking of going to USA or Canada for two years for a fellowship. That would improve my skills and allow me to perform more advanced surgeries. Certainly it would give me, personally, some advantages, for example when it comes to salary and responsibility.