"When you are choosing a profession, it takes a lot of courage to follow your heart"
Milla Bukova is one of the winners of a scholarship from the consultancy Forum der Medizin, a company offering support to medical students and doctors in their career development. One of the most impressive things about Milla is the energy and enthusiasm she puts into the process of making her dreams come true as well as her courage to follow her heart.
She hasn’t always known what she wants to work after university. When she was 18 years old, she wasn’t sure what specialty to choose but that uncertainty didn’t scare her. Milla accepted the fact that it was likely to start studying something and later change the direction. She decided to give Medicine a try since it was her parents’ profession. Two years after starting her university education, she was certain that this was her real passion.
Sometimes things that seem accidental turn out to be a milestone determining our life course because they have touched us deeply. This is what happened to Milla. She met a girl by accident and was so inspired by her life story that she immediately felt a desire to specialize in Children’s Cardiology.
Here is what else this inspiring young lady shared with us:
Milla, what type of people choose the profession of a doctor?
In my opinion a person who is 18 years old isn’t ready to take such a crucial decision like what profession to develop in. A higher level of maturity is necessary in order to make a suitable choice. It is important to find a specialty that is a good match with a person’s character. I needed two years at university to get the feeling of belonging to this profession. I like the dynamics of medical innovations. I feel inspired by the scientific progress in this area. Medicine is for people who love their profession. This should be their main source of motivation.
You know that in Bulgaria a large percentage of doctors feel demotivated due to the work conditions and the health care crisis. Your parents are doctors so you have had the chance to get a pretty clear notion of the difficulties that doctors are faced with. Didn’t that cause doubts in you? How did your parents react when you told them about your choice of profession?
My parents have never tried to meddle in my decisions. When I told them, they were happy that I had decided to continue the family tradition. I have to admit that there was a moment when I had to solve an internal conflict in order to be able to follow my desire to study Medicine. It was related to doctors’ lifestyle. They don’t have much time for their family. I still remember how I waited for my mother to come back home after a night shift at the hospital. However, after immersing myself into this specialty, I learnt that it is a vocation. It is not an ordinary profession and it is not for everyone.
Do you have any ideas how medical education in Bulgaria can be improved?
I think that students can be encouraged to do more extracurricular activities related to the specialty. Our curriculum is very good but it would be better if more efforts are made to raise students’ motivation.
Team work can also be more often encouraged not just individual success. In Germany and France universities organize mini seminars in which students from all courses can participate. This is a great way to exchange knowledge and ideas.
I know from a friend who studies in Sweden that there students don’t get grades after sitting for an exam. Their result is either “exam taken” or “not taken”. This contributes for reduction of the rivalry between students and stimulates collaboration between them. They prepare for exams together.
What else did you like during your trainings abroad?
I have been to Germany and France. I liked the positive attitude of patients toward doctors as well as the relationship between colleagues. I was impressed by the fact that professors in Medicine are highly motivated to pay attention to students, explain everything carefully and give feedback to students regarding their performance during trainings.
Once I couldn’t remember the answer to a question asked by a French professor and later in the day he ran after me in the corridor of the hospital to give me a flash memory card with his lecture.
During my training in France I sensed the nationalism they are notorious for. There was some kind of prejudice toward students from Eastern Europe. While I was in Germany I didn’t feel such a prejudice.
I think that trainings abroad are valuable not only for the professional development of medical students but also for their personal growth as individuals. This is a great way to become more independent and to raise your self-confidence as a result of coping with life in a foreign environment.
Which medical field do you want to specialize in?
Four years ago I came across an Italian girl who was my age. She had a scar on her chest and I asked her about the scar. She told me that she had had a congenital heart defect called Tetralogy of Fallot and that’s why she had undergone an operation. Doctors saved her life.
Thirty years ago babies with such a condition didn’t survive. And it is amazing that nowadays medicine gives a second chance to these people and they are able to live a normal life.
The meeting with this girl touched me so deeply that I immediately knew I was going to specialize in Children’s Cardiology. I also like the fact that working in this medical field requires a lot of physics knowledge and logical thinking. I feel excited by the scientific progress in discovering ways to diagnose heart problems at a very early age and in creating micro-invasive procedures that help avoid the traumatic opening of a patient’s chest.
Do you dream of working abroad or you prefer staying in Bulgaria?
I would like to specialize in Germany and then go back to Bulgaria. I am going to invest my scholarship from Forum der Medizin in my specialization abroad.
What can be improved in the attitude of Bulgarians toward their own health?
It is important to have regular medical check-ups and stop relying so much on information in Internet forums since it is not given by specialists. General practitioners should pay more attention to what their patients have to say so that they can discover problems on time.
How do you take care of your own health?
I eat 4 times a day, avoid junk food and do sports 3 times a week. I love climbing, dancing, riding a bike and walking on foot.
We wish Milla to make her dream come true and find the best place for her professional development!
"Patients must be the leading figure in the doctor-patient relationship"
Atanas Bantchev is one of the winners of the scholarship competition organized by the consultancy Forum der Medizin. We wanted to know what motivates a young person to choose a challenging profession like that of a doctor in a tough economic time when the health care sector is in crisis too. Despite the negativism surrounding him, Atanas has kept his faith in the opportunity for a positive change and his ability to contribute for this change.
Hello, Atanas. Nowadays the most desired university specialties are Finance, Computer Systems and Technologies, etc. Doctor’s profession is connected with a lot of stressful situations and it is not among the most profitable jobs. Why did you decide to study Medicine?
I have known that I want to study Medicine since I was 5 years old. My desire to be a doctor awakened for the first time when I watched the series of “Emergency Room”. In this TV show there are many things that are far from reality and yet, the series show the dynamics of doctors’ daily lives. Choosing this profession means loving the idea of helping other people.
Which medical field are you going to specialize in?
I want to work in Pediatric Hematology. There has been rapid scientific progress in curing blood diseases.
The medical field you have chosen is one of the hardest to work in considering that it is connected with oncological illnesses. What made you pick this direction?
I have the will and the desire to do things that others tend to avoid. I believe that where there is a challenge, there is an opportunity.
What was your parents’ reaction when you told them what you wanted to study?
They have always supported me. Besides, in my family there are medical specialists. But I have to admit that there was one moment when they asked me: “Do you realize what you have chosen?”
You have always known that you want to study Medicine. Was your secondary education focused on the subjects of Biology and Chemistry?
No, I studied in a German Language School. I knew that doctors should be able to speak foreign languages. Most scientific research is published in English. German is a very suitable choice too because medicine in Germany is very well-developed. If a student wants to participate in a medical training program abroad, Germany is a very good choice. French and Italian languages are also very useful.
Have you participated in such programs abroad? What benefits have you derived from them?
Yes, I spent one month in Vienna, one semester in Germany on the Erasmus program and some time in Genua, Italy. During my training I witnessed examples of best practice in terms of doctors’ hygienic habits, the attitude toward patients, etc.
A lot of things can be improved in Bulgaria if a larger percentage of Bulgarian students have the opportunity to witness how things are done in developed countries. Then they can apply the things they have learnt here. Small changes can really result in a major positive outcome.
In the conversations between medical specialists in our hospitals many untrue rumours circulate regarding the quality of health care abroad. Only when you have a medical training in a foreign country, can you get a real notion of the medical practice there.
What exactly made the strongest impression on you during your training abroad?
Patients are the leading figure in the doctor-patient relationship. Doctors have an individual approach toward each patient according to his/her feelings and personality. Medical specialists know how to win the trust of patients. This is very important since many adults tend to behave like little children – they hide some information because they are afraid of learning the truth about their condition.
The other thing that I liked in the foreign hospitals where I had my medical training was the attitude of experienced specialists toward young doctors and trainees. Experienced doctors draw trainees’ attention to things they might not notice otherwise. They explain everything very patiently and encourage trainees to ask questions. This certainly contributes for a very good quality of health care.
Do you plan on working abroad?
Yes, I do but only for a definite period of time. I don’t want to live abroad my whole life. I want to apply my knowledge and skills in Bulgaria. I believe that things can be considerably improved here. It highly depends on doctors’ attitude. Among my university colleagues there are many people with a pessimistic mindset about their future career in Bulgaria. My closest circle of colleagues, however, consists of people filled with optimism. Their motivation is deeply rooted in their love for helping others.
Which is the biggest challenge for doctors in Bulgaria?
The biggest challenge for them is to keep their humane attitude toward patients. After working for some time with patients, medical specialists start feeling the burden of stress, tiredness and the disappointment from the working conditions. Nevertheless, it is important for them to keep their humane attitude because that is the essence of the job. Maybe they should keep their focus on what drew them to this profession in the first place.
I like my choice of profession so much that I am not affected by the tendency of media to show only the negative examples of doctors’ mistakes. Yes, it’s true that such things happen in reality but what about all the positive examples that remain unnoticed? Doctors deserve more recognition by society for their work. If they receive more recognition, a bigger number of young people will choose this profession and doctors will be willing to do their best at work.
Except the training you’ve had abroad, you have also found opportunities in Bulgaria to enhance your career success. You have won a scholarship from the consultancy Forum der Medizin. How did you learn about the competition and what are you going to do with the money?
I saw an ad in my university. I met all the requirements and decided to participate in the competition. I am very happy that I won the scholarship because I intend to invest the money in my career development. If I have a chance to work abroad, maybe I will choose Italy or Spain because I like the countries in Southern Europe. Dr Meridonov, the chief manager of Forum der Medizin, showed willingness to help me find a job abroad if this is my desire and also to finance my participation in foreign medical forums and conferences. It is good that there are organizations like Forum der Medizin which support young specialists and students who want to develop professionally.
What do you think about the health of Bulgarians in general? What can be done in order to make the prevention of diseases a major priority?
This depends on the mindset of society not just on medical services. Many Bulgarians who hear a doctor tell them to change some harmful habits, react negatively by thinking:”Who is this person to tell me how to live my life!” It’s easier to swallow pills than change habits.
It’s proven that prevention is much cheaper than curing diseases but it’s hard for medical specialists to fight this mindset. Fear of doctors leads to avoidance of medical check-ups. There should be a way to solve this problem with a certain law. Foreign countries have found a way to make prevention a priority.
How do you take care of your own health since you realize that this is an ongoing process not just something you do when a problem occurs?
I eat good food and do a lot of physical activity on a daily basis. I ride a bike when I have some errands to run in my town. I walk in the mountain whenever I can because this is some kind of restart for my body and mind. Nature fills me with inspiration and I have the energy to cope with everyday challenges.
We wish Atanas Bantchev to continue moving in the direction he has chosen with the same inspiration and faith in positive changes!