Mr Alexander Palant

My Name is Alexander Palant and I work in Göttingen, a small town in the middle of Germany. I work in the Department of General Practice and teach doctors-patient communication to medical students. My background is social sciences (mainly sociology and psychology). Currently I am working on my doctoral thesis about uncertainty in inflammatory bowel diseases.

I was born and spent the first 13 years in Ukraine. This is why my mother tongue is Russian. In 2008 I also spent 10 months studying at the Uppsala University in Sweden and therefore I also speak Swedish.

During my stay in Sweden I attended a seminar with the topic “culture and health”, where we learned and discussed many interesting things regarding health beliefs in other countries. We also did a little quantitative study in English and Swedish among the Erasmus students. I also did my own research in more than one language during my diploma thesis. I interviewed doctors who came from the former Soviet Union to Germany and wanted to work as doctors again. I did the interviews in Russian, but wrote the paper in German. This meant that I had to translate some parts, which I found sometimes quiet difficult. Besides I wasn’t sure, if it was methodologically correct. Unfortunately I couldn’t find any studies or information about the accurate procedure at that time.

Intercultural communication is meanwhile a very important topic in the medical field in Germany. There are a lot people from other countries living all over the country and the medical professionals are not fully prepared for this. And it is not just about the language barrier, but the understanding about health in illness is often different in other cultures. Many doctors and other employees in the medical field are aware of the problems, but don’t have the opportunity to get help, advice or information about the possible solutions.