The Alumni Interview: Philipp Schnorr, MD, Class of 2014

Every month, SUMAA contacts a former student for The Alumni Interview series and asks a few questions about what they are currently up to! For January, we contacted Philipp Schnorr, MD, class of 2014, who specializes in Thoracic Surgery.

Tell us about yourself – as an intro to the interview.

I was born and raised around Frankfurt a. M. and spent most of my early life in the beautiful city of Darmstadt, where I grew up and graduated grammar school.

Even though I always said, “I never want to study medicine!” because both of my parents were already doctors, and the profession wasn’t particularly interesting to me at the time, a very dedicated biology teacher managed to arouse my curiosity and brought the whole subject closer to me, which finally led to me applying to medical school.

The situation in Germany, however, was difficult because my grades just weren’t good enough for a studying there without spending a couple of years on a waiting list. So, after dedicating a year to community work at a children’s hospital, a good friend of mine and high school classmate told me about the University of Szeged, where he started studying medicine right after our graduation. The moment I sat foot in this city, I felt at home; I had two exciting, wonderful years in Szeged.

Where do you currently work?

While never showing particular interest in surgery during my studies, I finally realized during my sixth year rotations that a surgical field can be very interesting, a lot of fun and challenges me in a completely different way compared to internal medicine.

Originally, I applied for general and visceral surgery at several different university hospitals, but got accepted for thoracic surgery residency at the University of Münster early on. However, before signing the contract and starting to work, I shadowed my future coworkers to make my own, unbiased picture. Doing so, I realized right away that working there in a small, familiar team would be fun and could teach me a lot. Besides, I would operate a lot early on considering it’s a university hospital… and that’s the best anyway!

Even though the workload in thoracic surgery bears far more than 42 hours a week, you gladly accept it, if it’s something you enjoy and can imagine for the next 20 to 30 years.

How well did your university studies prepare you?

After passing second year in Szeged, I transferred to the Asklepios Campus Hamburg, associated with Semmelweis University, which offered an equally excellent education, especially considering the practical aspect of dealing with patients.

In this regard, the daily interaction and discussion with patients was heavily promoted and, in retrospective, prepared me best for the current working life. Of course, the theoretical foundation has to be right and good, but many students lack the social competence of dealing with patients at the beginning of their work life, especially in Germany.

In addition to social skills, organizational skills are important too, as they’ll influence the individual workload to a great extent, but most university classes barely cover them—fortunately, I acquired them before and therefore didn’t have any problem. With time and increasing practice, however, one acquires them as well and eventually handles all tasks more efficiently.

If I had to start studying medicine all over again, there’s only one thing I’d do differently: I’d engage myself much earlier and more intensively with research and invest far more time in it.

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice for students trying to decide where to work and what to work with?

I like the structure of 6th year rotations with six (eight) different subjects in ten months because this constellation grants insight into many different disciplines once more and supported me in my later career choice. In general, I recommend every student to see as much as possible. In the end, only after working, practicing in a certain area, one knows for sure if he/she really likes it.

Each student or graduate should take a closer look at his or her favored discipline in advance, shadow fellow physicians in this area, and talk to the residents, senior physicians and of course to the head of the department. It’s important to get an idea of the workplace atmosphere before accepting a job and regretting one’s decision two weeks later because people just don’t get along.

How long should a student or graduate shadow a place?

One day is completely enough to get an overview of the various areas and individual levels, the doctors and talking to them. Ask yourself: “Where do I want to go and how can I realize my potential?”

What did you like most about Szeged?

What really made my time in Szeged unique and beautiful, weren’t only the interesting studies about human nature, but especially the many different people from all over the world one got to know in the German and English program. The shared time in Szeged led to many long, lasting and close friendships, many of which still endure.

Of course one makes a lot of friends during classes and lectures, but let’s be honest: most friendships are sparked by a mutual beer together; thus the end of the SZOTE klub marks a very, very great loss to Szeged, the University and for all of the students there.

Thank you for taking time and sharing your thoughts with us. We wish you the best of luck for your specialization and hope to see you again in Szeged at the 30th anniversary of the English Language Program in September 2015.

The Alumni Team