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Project summary

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Project summary

International – Interdisciplinary – Integrative: These are the key words describing the proposed French-German MD/PhD program INTER. Offered jointly by Université Paris Descartes (Paris 5) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin, the core idea of the program is to intensify existing contacts and cooperation between the two partner institutions, to stimulate further interdisciplinary research in the intensely interacting fields of neuroscience, cardiovascular research and immunology and to integrate medical and research education in one comprehensive program. The result is a highly skilled clinician scientist who can practice medicine in both France and Germany and whose research reflects the understanding that, under pathological conditions, the brain, the heart and the immune system interrelate in detrimental as well as protective and regenerative effects on human health.

Charité and Paris5 can already look back on an impressive track record of cooperation. In November 2005, the two faculties signed a contract of cooperation resulting in a series of medical summer schools. Through the ERASMUS program Charité and Paris5 exchange about 35 students per year for fully recognised study periods. On the research side, a lab for cardiovascular pharmacology supported by Inserm (Institut national de santé et de la recherche médicale) and led by a post-doc of Dr. Jeunemaitre's group will be hosted at the Charité in the near future.

Neurosciences, cardiovascular research, and immunology are key areas of research at Paris5 and Charité. Research in these fields is highly linked, as it is becoming clear that the interaction of the three super-systems, the central nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the immune system, holds the key to understanding and potentially preventing or at least efficiently treating numerous highly prevalent disorders, including stroke, myocardial infarction, and atherosclerosis.

These diseases pose a major burden on public health and Europe needs clinician scientists who integrate medical and research skills in one person, driving bench to bedside translation. It is only for the last 8 years that a few German medical faculties have begun to introduce MD/PhD programs, mostly by merely adding an extended research phase to a completed medical education. In France, too, it was only recently that Inserm established an MD/PhD program in which medical faculties across the country participate, including Paris5. This national program already devotes much more attention to systematically preparing students for research during the medical education and to integrate an extended research phase of several years.

In a way, INTER sets these two approaches into creative competition with one another. The guiding principle is to work with structures in place both at Charité and at Paris5 and to test and further develop their viability. These structures include regular medical education offered by the faculty and intensified scientific training and interdisciplinary research projects offered by programs and schools established as part of the research activities in the three focus areas. At Charité, the latter include PhD programs, Research Training Groups (Graduiertenkollegs) or Early Stage Training networks (FP6 Marie-Curie Actions). At Paris5, this includes the MD/PhD program offered through Inserm.

The bi-national exchange of INTER includes ERASMUS exchange for students exposing them to the respective other clinical and scientific culture and language. All research projects will be co-supervised by a scientist from Charité and Paris5 in the cotutelle de thèse manner. An extended rotation to the respective co-supervisor's lab is integral part of the program. Due to INTER's contribution to French-German relations it is supported by the Ambassade de France en Allemagne and the Deutsch-Französische Hochschule. Progress and outcome of INTER will be closely monitored and evaluated.

The lessons learned will find their way into the set up of future medical education as envisioned, for example, by Charité. This vision includes a two-tiers medical program in accordance with Bologna criteria consisting of a Bachelor, a Master and a MD/PhD track, as well as a number of specialized Masters programs. INTER will thus be an important strategic project shaping the future of how we train experts at the interface of patient care and research in Europe.