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My Experience in Switzerland

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Author: Priscilla Williams | Category: Beyond The Bench | Nursing Science (Ph.D.) | October 18, 2016

I recently attended the 2016 Swiss Ph.D. Platform in Nursing Science Education (SPINE) Summer School, at the University of Basel in Switzerland. I was one of 40 international students selected to attend. I am grateful to  Dr. Maria Danet Lapiz-Bluhm, Dr. Carrie Jo Braden and Dr. Eileen Breslin from the School of Nursing, Dr. Nicquet Blake and Dr. David Weiss from the Graduate School of Biomedical Science and Dr. Maria Katapodi  from the University of Basel for their encouragement and for making this experience possible.

I am 2nd year Nursing Science Ph.D. student. I completed my MSN through the Family Nurse Practitioner program in 2014 and my BSN in 2010 at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. I have had a long interest in understanding and improving veteran’s health. Specifically I am interested in understanding PTSD in veterans. My father and three brothers served in our military and I have deep respect and honor for our veteran community. It is both my family history and my work as a Family Nurse Practitioner that has led to my passion for improving the healthcare of our veterans.

The presenters did a phenomenal job presenting complex material in an easy to interpret way. Dr. Yvette Conely is a Professor and Vice President Chair of Research at the University of Pittsburg School of Nursing. She has a background in genetic and epigenetics research and patient outcomes after stroke and traumatic brain injury. Dr. Conley presented on the anatomy of the gene, genetic variations, candidate gene and gene wide association studies, haplotypes, gene regulation and expression, and resources available to identify phenotype and genotype associations. 

Dr. Christine Miaskowski is a Professor and Associate Dean at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) and has a nursing background in studying pain and symptom management in cancer patients. She presented on the data analytic techniques used in doing a gene candidate study. 

Dr. Vincent Mooser is faculty in biology and medicine at the University of Lausanne and is the principal investigator at Lausanne Institutional Biobank and the Swiss Biobanking Platform and he presented on biobanking (i.e., specimen collection, and ethics).

This course provided insight into identifying phenotypes of interest; searching databases for genes associated with those phenotypes, and demonstrated how to perform a gene candidate analysis. My hope is to build on the knowledge gained and incorporate some of the methods learned into my dissertation work.

Outside of class I had the opportunity to visit museums, float down the Rhine River, enjoy the food and fountains, and listen to music. The most common pastime for the locals was to float down the Rhine River on dry bags called wicklefisch. At the Kunstbasel Museum, I viewed art by Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso. There are 314 fountains in Basel, they have fresh water filtered through the ground that tastes wonderful! 

The fountains are cleaned weekly and they are designed to overflow so that the water goes back down into the ground and is refiltered. All of the creams, cheeses, and yogurts were delicious. There was a corner store that had fresh fruits daily. On several occasions, while walking down the street, I heard individuals playing instruments (i.e., bag pipes, violin, organ grinder, and saxophone). One of the most memorable experiences was hearing a woman singing opera underneath the Mittlere Brücke (middle bridge). The bridge amplified her voice and I was overwhelmed with emotion at its beauty.

This experience was beneficial to me in many ways. I gained knowledge on how to approach symptom science while incorporating genomics, I got to see and experience the culture of Switzerland, and I met people from around the world that share similar interests.


Classes were held at the University of Basel.

Switzerland lit up at night. 

A fresh fruit stand a block from my room that had delicious fruit. 

The view from just outside my classroom. If you look closely you can see people floating on wicklefisch down the Rhine River.

Drinking from one of the many fountains in Switzerland. 

Kunstmuseum Basel, this is where I saw art by Vincent Van Gogh, Andy Warhol, and Pablo Picasso.

Sunset in Switzerland. 

The "Beyond The Bench" series features articles written by students, alumni, and postdoctoral fellows at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at The University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio.

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