My secondment at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki

by Violeta Gaveikaite

As a part of my experience being an ESR fellow in the CHESS ITN program, I spend an agreed period of time, so called secondment, in another institution. As I’m working in the industry environment, to come back in the university life was the pleasurable experience. To get a chance to visit Greece in summer time couldn’t be more enjoyable.

Last summer, I have visited the Greece for the first time, and this “butterfly” feeling was following me all the way to Thessaloniki. I have spent 3 weeks in the medical informatics laboratory in Aristotle University. I would disappoint you: no Chalkidiki beaches, or sun baths, as the heat was reaching extreme heights, and “the garbage on the street” problems were poisoning my mood. However, I was very curious to see, what is the connected health environment in this country? Will fortune give me a chance to meet the J.Ioannidis[1]?

No J. Ioannidis, but the colleagues, I got to work with, was above my expectations. The extremely bright fellows with a lot of passion to science, their hard work and Greek style hospitality made my days exceptionable. I got all information I need and a lot of moral support to continue doing what I like. As well, I had a chance to visit the Greece hospital designed to provide care for the respiratory disease patients.

During my visit to the Aristotle University, I had a chance to finish my inscription to the university procedure. As well, I got a university access to the medical databases, which was very valuable for me while using this for my further research and diminishing a lot of administrative tasks related with accessibility issues. Prof. Ioanna, was very kind to me, and allocated some time to discuss what I want to do and how she can help me with it. Prof. Nicos introduced me to the Prof. Vassilis Koutkias, which is a great specialist in medical informatics domain. While meeting Vassilis I had a feeling that we can work together, as we were alumnus of the INSERM program in France and have a similar working style. In the near future I hope to work with Vassilis on my project and to have his insights and feedback on my work. The possibility to do my second secondment as well was discussed and Prof. Nicos reached the other professionals working in the field of the COPD epidemiology to work with me in the future.

The feeling of belonging, which I experienced in Greece, won’t be forgettable. The change of the culture, scenery, behavior of people was obvious, but I felt good, I was connected and accepted. Spending time in a university environment in addition to my industry experience in Philips research was helpful in understanding how industry research is different from university research. It was a great challenge to my personality to learn and deal with other cultural experiences. With the smile remembering the personal menu in the “ZITOS” restaurant nearby the Thessaloniki ark, I wish myself to come back here to defend my thesis, and make a party, which will crown all my gratitude towards these warm people.

[1] Ioannidis JPA. Why Most Published Research Findings Are False. PLoS Medicine. 2005;2(8):e124. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0020124.