Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grüße aus Bern!

Yet another introduction post! Hey everyone - I'm Catherine Reid, and I'm a 4th year medical student from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX. I've been a bit late in posting this, but I've been busy settling in, starting work, and watching lots of football since I arrived last week!

I have a unique situation in that my significant other lives and works here in Bern, so I've already spent a couple months out of the last year here. And since Bern is a pretty small city, I already know my way around. Although with all of the festivities for Euro2008 going on here, it looks a lot different, and much more crowded! It's been such a fun atmosphere, although when the Dutch team has played, it makes biking to work through the crowds impossible! The city's population literally doubled the night the Netherlands played here in Bern. But it's fun to walk home in that case, through the festival atmosphere. I'm living in an apartment on the opposite side of the Altstadt from Inselspital, on a hill directly above the Bärengraben (bear pit) that I'm sure you will all get to see when you visit. So I go through all the craziness downtown every day - it's been awesome! Not to mention living with a German who is crazy for his national team - it's making the tournament so much more entertaining to watch.

So, in terms of my project - I'm doing lab-based research with the Otolaryngology, Head and Neck Surgery Department at Inselspital, which is the hospital affiliated with the University of Berne. Our project is examining the potential of adult stem cells harvested from the inner ears of rats to be cultured, expanded, and re-transplanted into the inner ears of rats that have been destroyed by meningitis, with the hope that it can help restore hearing. At the moment, I'm learning a lot of basic techniques that will be helpful over the next few months, including immunohistochemical staining, immunofluoresence, microscopy, etc. When my PI, Dr. Pascal Senn, returns from a conference, I will also get to learn surgical techniques involved in drilling out the inner ear.

While he is gone, I'm being trained by the lab technician Jasmin and a professor of neurosurgery, Dr. Hans-Rüdi Widmer, who kindly allows ENT to use part of his lab. I've been learning to speak German for the last few months, which has ended up being very useful, as the majority of communication so far, especially with the lab techs, has been in German. At least they've been kind enough to speak High German for me, as for those of you who don't speak German, Swiss German is a very different dialect, and very hard for non-Swiss to understand! But they sometimes lapse back into Swiss German, and with Dr. Widmer, it's constantly changing from English to Hochdeutsch to Schwyzerdütsch! But even though I'm being pushed to my limits in terms of German-speaking abilities, it's certainly the best way to learn, and already it's becoming easier.

I can't wait to do some traveling around Switzerland while I'm here, which I'm constantly being pushed by my advisors to do (the Swiss have a much better approach to quality of life than your typical American!). My sister and brother-in-law are actually coming to visit next week, so we'll do some sightseeing while they are here. Hopefully the weather will improve a bit, as right now it's reminding me of my home, Portland, OR - cloudy and rainy.

Ok - back to the football game . . .

Bis später,

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