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Czech patients are always surprised I am British

“My life has been largely driven by coincidence,” says Stuart Andrew Hopkinson, a graduate of the MU Faculty of Medicine who hails from the United Kingdom. The fact that he went to study in the Czech Republic was a coincidence too, as was the fact that he ended up staying in Brno.

Stuart Andrew Hopkinson, a graduate of the MU Faculty of Medicine, now works as an internist in the emergency ward of a small hospital in Blansko near Brno.

Stuart first learned about Masaryk University thanks to an advertisement in a British newspaper that his father happened to notice. They were both quite impressed by the fact that one could study medicine in the Czech Republic and then work all over Europe, and soon afterwards flew to Brno to see the university and its facilities for themselves.

“We flew halfway around the world to Czechia from South Africa, where we were living at the time. My father worked as a pilot all his life and we moved around a lot. Besides Masaryk University, we also went to visit Charles University in Prague, but I couldn’t picture myself living there, it was too big a city for me. On the other hand, I quite liked Brno from the get-go and I knew I wanted to study here,” Stuart explains.

Fifteen years have passed since he first visited Masaryk University. At that time, the modern Bohunice University Campus was still under construction and classes moved there only when Stuart was in his second year of study. Until then, all teaching had taken place in buildings in the centre of Brno.

“It’s amazing to see how much progress the university has made since then. When I started my studies at MU, there were about 100 of us in a year. Today, the numbers doubled and over two hundred new international students enrol for study at the Faculty of Medicine each year. On top of that, a teaching hospital has been built on campus where students can practice various medical procedures directly on simulation mannequins. We never even dreamed of something like this,” says the 34-year-old medical school graduate.

From Liverpool back to the Czech Republic

Although the medical education was different in his student years, he is very pleased with his studies at MU and adds that the Faculty of Medicine prepared him very well for his professional life, even though the studies were more demanding than he had expected and he had to study very hard. But the effort was worth it.

Moreover, the young Brit even got his first job thanks to MU. “I didn’t think much about where I would start my career after school, but by chance, I got a great offer that was hard to refuse. Just before my state exams, a representative of a hospital in Liverpool visited Brno to recruit new doctors and invited me for an interview. He had had an excellent experience with MU graduates and wanted to bring more of them to the UK,” Stuart explains.

The interview went well, so Stuart knew already before his state exams where he would work after graduation. He did not even consider returning to his home country after school since he and his family had moved out when he was 12. Therefore, he was very grateful for the unique opportunity to work in a British hospital. After passing the British Medical Association exams, he moved to Britain.

Stuart worked in Liverpool for three years as an internist but then he decided to move back to the Czech Republic because his wife is Czech and they met during his studies in Brno. And so four years ago, Stuart started working as an internist in the emergency ward of a small hospital in Blansko, a town of 20 thousand people situated thirty kilometres north of Brno.

“Working in a hospital where Czech was the only language spoken was quite scary for me at the time. Even though I had attended weekly Czech lessons during my six years at MU and I was by no means a beginner, I was still terrified. In the beginning, it was very challenging and I had trouble understanding my patients and writing medical reports in Czech, but my chief of medicine and the whole team were amazing and sympathetic. They helped me with the language and were very supportive, so I have felt great at the hospital from the beginning,” says Stuart.

Stuart works in the emergency department of Blansko hospital and deals with all sorts of cases brought in by ambulance – from heart attacks to various illnesses. “There is a lot of variety and you never know what to expect on a given day. Helping to save people’s lives is incredibly meaningful work for me, even though it is challenging and very stressful at times.”

Czech healthcare allows for a better work-life balance

Even after four years, patients at Blansko hospital are still amazed to learn that he is in fact British. “They’re always sort of shocked and ask me what I’m doing here. British doctors are not really that common in Czech hospitals. So I simply tell them that I followed my heart and shrug,” laughs Stuart. The patients are very grateful, he says, and often come back to the hospital asking for the English doctor who cared for them to give him some goodies as thanks.

Working in a Czech hospital suits him much better, mainly because the healthcare system here is much more balanced and family-friendly than the one in the United Kingdom. It is normal in Britain for doctors not to see their families for a whole week because of the long hours and demanding hospital shifts.

Although Czechs often tend to think that healthcare in their country is poor, Stuart believes the opposite to be true. In his view, Czech hospitals offer excellent services, while social services and long-term care for people unable to take care of themselves are also at an excellent level. If the services were not as good, he said, he would not work here.

Stuart is quite satisfied with his work in the Czech Republic and is grateful for the opportunity. “I am happy where I am. We have a great team of people at the hospital and I always enjoy going to work. And I really like Brno too, it’s the perfect size city and has everything you need to live comfortably. I’ve lived there for over ten years now and I actually feel more at home here than in the UK,” concludes Stuart.