AFMS Elective Report – September 2017

Reporter: Lauren M Quinn

Contact at destination: Ms Stella de Sabata, IDF Europe Regional Manager

Year of visit: 2017

Country: Belgium

Region: Brussels

Institution: International Diabetes Federation Europe, Headquarters, Brussels, Belgium

Department: European Region, International Diabetes Federation

Work / Study undertaken: I was an intern for the International Diabetes Federation Europe

Description of the service and department: IDF Europe is the umbrella organisation for 47 countries, incorporating 70 diabetes national associations, who campaign and advocate for improved diabetes care across Europe. IDF Europe represent the patient and professional voice alike and advocate at the political level to influence health policy and bring positive change in diabetology across Europe. IDF Europe are a sub-committee of the global International Diabetes Federation.

Description of destination: Central Brussels, bustling with activity, offices and professionals

Were the local people friendly? Yes, the IDF Europe staff were wonderfully kind and supportive. The local people also encouraged and helped me.

Did you feel safe and if not why not? Yes, always, Brussels was immaculately kept, clean, friendly and safe

What did you do in your spare time ?

I travelled to Gent, Bruges and Ostend. I also visited the sites in central Brussels including Delerium, Grand Central Market, The Palace Quarter and gardens, Centennial Arch and many more. I also participated in the Belgian National Day!

Is there anything that you would particularly recommend others to do?

Highstreet Louise is a wonderful shopping quarter to stroll down and the shopping arcade sells antiques and collectables old and new, so there is something for everyone here! Ostende was also amazing as there was a Disney sand display depicting 50 Disney films in professional sand sculptures!

What time of the year were you there? What was the climate like? May-August: sun with Brussels cloud and rain!

Where did you stay?

I stayed in an Air BNB residence for one month and then moved to the second floor of a beautiful typical Belgian House in Flagey. It was very close to Avenue Louise and the central hub of Brussels.

What was your accommodation like? Basic, fridge but limited facilities

Was it provided? I sought out and paid the accommodation myself

How much did it cost? 30 euros per night

Did you enjoy your visit? I had a wonderful visit to Brussels. It was my first time there, the city was beautiful, the internship was fascinating, so the all-round experience was compelling.

Did you find it useful medically? – in what way? Yes. I learnt about health policy, advocacy and lobbying at national and international levels. I also shadowed in a Brussels hospital to compare and contrast diabetes care in the UK to Brussels and was glad to see many the similarities but also a few differences, such as commission of islet cell transplant services in Brussels which are rare in the UK.

Has it improved your French? Certainly, my reading and listening have improved immensely. I also practiced my speaking which has also come along well. I was astonished by how much I could recall and recognise from my ‘A’ level French five years ago now.

How has it increased your knowledge of French culture? Certainly, I was embedded in Brussels-French culture which was wonderful. It felt like Utopia with well kept streets, houses, gardens and parks. Around every corner was a piece of history, a well-preserved mansion or monument. I also embraced Brussels travel via bus, train and tram to discover the city. It was wonderful to discover French food and dining as well!

If you went back would you do anything differently? I would do more French preparation before I left, however on the other hand, I learnt so much as I went along.

How did you get there? Eurostar train London St Pancras to Brussels Midi direct – 2 hours each way.

What was the approximate total cost? £3500 in total, for 3 months rent, food, travel

Is there any other information that you think may be useful? Thankyou for funding this wonderful opportunity. It has shaped me and the doctor I hope to become in the future for the better, so thankyou. To summarise I undertook a four month internship elective with the International Diabetes Federation Europe (IDFE), in Brussels, Belgium. This was a health policy elective, which gave me the opportunity to discover the lobbying potential of a National Governmental Organisation at the political levels, and how policies are generated, endorsed and established at the international and national levels alike. I have learnt that real systems change in the healthcare setting comes only with a political influence, voice and confidence. On a typical week in Brussels, I would attend a European stakeholder meeting, be a representative at policy-setting conferences, attend pharmaceutical thinktanks, write articles, newspieces and interviews for the IDFE communities (and further afield). During my time, I was specifically tasked with preparing and conducting an international survey on diabetes standards of care for across Europe, for which I attained an 85% response rate. I was also domain expert for a project with IBM in partnership with IDFE, which is ongoing and has revealed the innovative potential of Watson in the identification and review of scientific literature. Finally, I was responsible for writing an impactful publication for IDFE on the gaps in diabetes care, the causative barriers and the solutions to these barriers, under the guidance of an expert committee; this publication will be launched on 14th November 2017 for World Diabetes Day and will provide an informative tool for education and advocacy in order to improve diabetes care across Europe. This publication forms the first of its kind to elucidate the barriers which prohibit optimisation of diabetes care, at the levels of the patient, the professionals and the policy-makers, and to delineate the solutions to these barriers, by means of a scoping review.