SUMAA contacts a former student for The Alumni Interview series and asks a few questions about what they are currently up to! This time, we contacted The Shperbers, during the SUMAA Alumni Reunion Weekend. Aino and Oren, both medical doctors graduated from the class of 2001 and told us about their experiences during and after their life here in Szeged.

Aino and Oren Shperber, MD

Can you introduce yourselves please?

My name is Shperber Aino from Norway, I graduated from the University of Szeged in 2001 and I work as a clinical pathologist in Israel.

I am Shperber Oren, her husband and I am working as a neurologist in Israel.

We met for the first time here in Szeged when we started our studies back in 1995 and we got married right after our graduation in 2001.

How did you know about the medical programs here in Hungary?

Aino: I was looking all over Europe and I had heard really good things about Hungary. I am from Norway originally, so I heard a lot of students went here, and I applied to both Semmelweis University in Budapest and to the University of Szeged. I got accepted to both but decided on Szeged because it is a smaller city and I thought it could be nice to have a more intimate and more friendlier environment … and I was correct 🙂

Oren: I am from Israel and the medical studies in Hungary are well-known for their qualities in my home country and I just wanted to study medicine. It did not matter to me where.

Why did you decide to study Medicine?

Aino: My answer is a bit weird. In 8th grade biology class we had to do an autopsy of frogs. I thought that was cool. Now I am a pathologist so that goes hand in hand.

Oren: In my family there are many doctors, and I knew from a young age that I wanted to study medicine and Hungary was the best option.

What is one of your fondest memories of your studies in Szeged?

Aino: Can I say Sing Sing, haha. No I am just kidding. I think the graduation was awesome and for the studies I think anatomy was very nice to have, because it was an introduction to medicine with all the dissections.

Oren: The first day in the autopsy room in anatomy. It was very shocking but also very impressive.

When did you met each other?

Aino and Oren: We started studying together even though we were in different groups, and I remember from one of the first few days we got to talk and then it just happened. 🙂

After graduation you moved to Israel together, how did you, Aino, prepare for that transition?

Aino: I moved to Israel the same year after graduation and it took me one and a half years before I started any practices. Back then I had to take the Israeli board exam and I started to learn hebrew for it. After that you do one year of rotations in different subjects. During that year I made my decision to specialise in clinical pathology and I was accepted to the hospital where I work now.

Does the outcome of the Board Exam influence your decision on which specialty to choose?

Oren: No, you choose yourself, of course some are more popular than others like plastic surgery or dermatology and if you get a place it is great, if not then you have to wait or do something else.

I chose neurology and I got it right away so there was no problem.

Do you apply to the hospitals directly or is there a central application process?

Oren: Directly to the hospitals, you have an interview, and you have a probation period and then if it works out then you start your specialty.

Do you have any tips for non-Israeli students who are thinking about going there to practice medicine?

Oren: Practicing will not be easy if you are not an Israeli, you will have to apply for a residence permit, and it is a very difficult procedure. I am sure if you are persistent though, it can work out.

Why did you decide to go to Israel over Norway?

Aino: It seemed like the more natural choice, because we both knew that Oren would not want to give up Israel, and I come from a more flexible background, lived in many different countries, so it was not difficult for me to cut the roots and move to a new country.

What influenced you in your decision of becoming a the specialist you are today?

Aino: Initially after finishing medicine, I thought I would choose a clinical specialty like paediatrics or OB/GYN, which are typical female choices. After my first year in rotation in Israel, I realised it was quite hard, not just because of the language barrier but also because of the mentality of the people, they have a different way of behaving, they are pushier than me.

When I found pathology it gave me the theoretical challenge and I could practice medicine without having to be in direct contact with the language or the people so it was much easier for me.

Oren: Originally I wanted to do a surgical specialty, but I realised that it was not for me. Neurology was nice and I still like it and that is what I decided to do.

If you lived in a different country, lets say Norway, would you still have become a pathologist?

Aino: No, I might have gone in a more clinical direction, but I am very happy about pathology, it is a diamond in medicine, a very beautiful specialty.

Did you get your residency spots easily in your preferred city?

Aino & Oren: Yes, we work in a town close to Tel Aviv.

Compared to other academic professions, is it payed better, worse or the same?

Oren: Better

Aino: I do not know.

How well did your university studies prepare you for your career?

Aino: Theoretically the studies were more than adequate, absolutely felt like I knew medicine well. Practically however, there was a lot lacking. But I do not know if it was due to the university or due to the lack of my own interest. When I got to Israel I did not even know how to draw blood.

Oren: The basic theory was excellent, clinically it was a bit less, but you pick it up quickly so it worked out just fine.

What skills were you missing?

Aino: Taking blood or a good patient history, for instance. During the clinical part my Hungarian language skills were not adequate and I was not able to communicate enough with patients, and during the summer practices I was working in Norway or Israel and I felt like I could not get enough exposure.

Oren: Obviously, if you come from a different country you will have to accommodate, but if you just hang in there you will succeed.

How did you compare to Israeli trained medical students?

Oren: We were afraid they were going to think that we would not be as good as them, but I never felt inferior. I knew it at least as good as them if not better.

Were you treated any different from hospital administrators or superior doctors?

Oren: In some places they look at you differently when they find out you did not study in Israel, but the majority of the students in Israel are from different countries, and as long as you do the job and do it well, Hungarian trained doctors are gonna keep up the good reputation.

Is it easier to get a job in Israel then in Europe for example?

Oren: Depends in what specialty, in some there will always be a place like General Medicine, Internal Medicine and General Surgery.

How would you define your working environment?

Aino: Independent, challenging.

Oren: I work one-on-one with the patients, it is intimate, challenging, but I like it.

How well do you get by on your salary?

Aino & Oren: During residency the salary is not enough for what you put into it, but we did not become doctors to make money, once you finish your specialty your salary will increase immensely. And I think we live above the average with our income. During specialty you earn enough to support your living expenses.

How would you say is your workload?

Aino: As a specialist I work harder then during training, but it is very independent work and I can limit it and increase it as I please. I feel good about it and there are always new challenges and new knowledge to be learnt.

Oren: Specialising is hard, a lot of hours, nightshifts. Life gets better once you finish. Now I work 30 hours per week, I would not want more, like during residency you work 50-60 hours.

What skills were most critical to your success?

Oren: Most doctors consider neurology as the biggest mystery in medicine. They want to have nothing to do with it, so for me it was important that I do something that I am interested in. Interest is the most important skill.

Aino: Commitment, I reckon.

Are you involved in teaching and/or research?

Aino: I have been published but I am not interested in research since my first priority in life is being a mother and later my work. Maybe in the future.

Pathology is very family friendly! Also during the residency.

Oren: While I was specialising I was teaching the foreign students, but since I have finished I have not taught anymore.

And I do not have the patience to do research.

Do you have any words of wisdom or advice to the students?

Oren: Do what you like!

Aino: Know your priorities and go from there. There is no shame in trying something and figuring out it’s not for you.

Would you two do the same thing all over if you graduated this year?

Aino & Oren: Same.

Since you are a very international family, what language do you speak at home?

Aino: Oren does not speak Norwegian, so in the beginning we spoke English to each other but now we speak hebrew. The children understand Norwegian but we speak hebrew at home.

Any advice on when to have kids?

Aino: We had our first during residency. It worked out fine. It depends on how career oriented you are, but for me it was a simple choice. It had not interfered with my career.

Would you send your children for university studies to Szeged?

Aino: I would like them to study abroad, it is very important for personality and background, Szeged would be one of my first options.

Szeged is our second home, and it has changed a lot, it was beautiful then, but now it is even more so and it’s nice to see the development! Not just the in the city, but in the people too.