JKU Faculty of Medicine Celebrates 5 Years - Medicine That Works

The JKU Faculty of Medicine is celebrating its fifth anniversary. By focusing on general medicine, the JKU is also taking social responsibility.

f.l.: VR Elgin Drda, Rector Meinhard Lukas, Dep. Gov. Haberlander, Prof. Gerald Pruckner
f.l.: VR Elgin Drda, Rector Meinhard Lukas, Dep. Gov. Haberlander, Prof. Gerald Pruckner

The success story continues: A new teaching and research campus hospital is currently being built in the city center at the Kepler University Hospital. The new 12,500 m2 building will provide an inspiring environment to work, conduct research and study and serve as a home to classrooms and research spaces, administration offices, a library, and a café.

The Faculty of Medicine has enormous potential. The research direction and synergies with other JKU faculties provide an ideal basis for new medical findings and innovation, such as in the fields of medical technology and life sciences. These areas, including the new Medical Engineering degree program, are unique in Austria and contribute to advancing Upper Austria’s value as a location of research. Ultimately, the effect will strengthen Upper Austria as a location of business.

Trend-Setting Education and Research
The first class of students in the program passed the last major examination and back in August, students began the clinical internship; at the start of Winter Semester 2019/2020, 180 students began their medical studies at the JKU Faculty of Medicine - 57% of those students are from Upper Austria. At full capacity, the JKU Faculty of Medicine will annually accept 300 students to the program. Students will acquire hands-on training at KUK, Austria's second largest hospital with 1,830 beds.

Research in medicine and technology at the JKU is effectively cross-linked and addresses social issues related to an ageing population. Whether it’s an artificial retina, injections to help prevent a heart attack, or improving prostheses sensors, the Faculty of Medicine is committed to finding cutting-edge solutions.

Meinhard Lukas, Rector of the Johannes Kepler University of Linz, remarked: "The JKU Faculty of Medicine opened its doors five years ago and has developed into an innovative showcase project. Socially significant areas of focus include clinical gerontology / health care research and, above all, medical technology. This is unique in Austria, just as studying medicine in a Bachelor’s/Master’s system. Initiatives such as the Linz Clinician Scientist Program (CSP/ACSP) also ensure that in additional to patient care, physicians have sufficient time to conduct medical research."

Christine Haberlander, Deputy Governor and Health Minister of Upper Austria, added: "From the start, the medical school was designed so that it would not become an academic ‘ivory tower’. This is about medicine for the people. We rely on structured cooperation between healthcare, teaching and research in order to create and provide rapid access to new treatments and medical innovation. Innovative medical thinking, a willingness to create and develop new treatments and technologies as well as adding them successfully to the health care process are important if we want to be at the cutting edge in Upper Austria, especially to benefit patients."

JKU Faculty of Medicine Milestones

The clinical internship has a structured, organ-centered focus

  • Along with professional skills, students also focus on strengthening their social skill set and bedside manner
  • The program starts with a combination of virtual and real anatomy
  • Professors are experts and have been recruited locally as well as internationally
  • The curriculum includes a junior researcher model
  • There is high-quality collaboration in research between the JKU Faculty of Medicine and the JKU Faculty of Engineering & Natural Sciences

Healthcare Research Needs a Database
Effective research in health services relies on important foundations such as informative data. Prof. Gerald Pruckner, health economist at the Johannes Kepler University Linz, focuses on problem areas in the field of general medicine. Pruckner added: "Our research is based on empirical analyses of the Austrian health system. Data that represents the reality of healthcare is the basis for evidence-based healthcare policies."

Effective Medicine - Concrete Measures at the Faculty of Medicine
Elgin Drda, JKU Vice Rector for Medicine, remarked: "One of the Faculty of Medicine’s goals was - and continues to be - improving Austria’s supply situation. This is why our medical degree program in human medicine focuses on general medicine. The current debate about increasing the number of medical students in lieu of an impending shortage of physicians shows just how important and right it was to create the Faculty of Medicine in Linz five years ago."

Education at the Faculty of Medicine has been designed to meet the challenge of creating more medical professionals. Students in the first semester of the program start a mandatory traineeship in general medical practices. During the sixth semester, students attend a two-week block session of lectures in general medicine, and during the ninth semester, there is an additional two-week block-session of lectures, case demonstrations on patients, and a mandatory internship at a small group practice. During the clinical internship year, students must complete a mandatory, four-week internship at an Austrian GP practice. The fact that these are also paid internships is one of many measures taken to support the attractiveness of general medicine and to spark an interest among junior physicians to pursue a social insurance-based practice.

In addition, from the first to the tenth semester (up to the clinical training year), small group internships are held every two weeks at the Skills Lab in order to learn more about basic medical skills and abilities as well as medical conversation skills. Moreover, there is a one-week Summer School of General Medicine program each year in the countryside. The class sizes are small, giving participants good opportunities to cover theory and medical practices as well as get to know each other better.  A mentoring program in general medicine has also been launched together with the Upper Austrian Medical Association, the Upper Austrian Society for General Medicine and the Upper Austrian Regional Health Insurance Fund. The program pairs the student with a resident GP mentor and provides these prospective family doctors with specialized training in family medicine during studies.

There are currently over 50 general practitioners involved in the medical education program in Linz and many others have expressed an interest to also be a part of the program. In addition to the teaching practices in rural areas as well as in the city, the collaboration with the first Upper Austrian PHC (Primary Health Center) in Haslach and Enns is particularly attractive for the JKU. PHC internships are a highlight for the students to become better acquainted with general medicine practices of the future in regards to interprofessional cooperation.

JKU Vice-Rector Elgin Drda added: "The assumption that early and consistent contact to general medicine would result in more students wishing to pursue general medicine as a career has - cautiously speaking - been confirmed: A survey of 35 graduate students shows that eight students have indicated they would like to become a GP."

The appointment procedure for a Chair of General Medicine is currently open and the successful candidate will institutionalize general medicine in both teaching and research at the JKU. The new Institute for General Medicine at the JKU Faculty of Medicine will bridge the gap between clinical scientific medicine and outpatient GP work.

The JKU is taking decisive and innovative steps toward securing healthcare in Upper Austria and beyond its borders by not only focusing on general medicine during the medical degree program from start to finish, but also providing paid internships in general medicine during the clinical traineeship year.