In his master's thesis, Matheus Silva Gurgel do Amaral focusses on health literacy: the skill of handling health information by individuals, so they can make conscious decisions regarding their own health. 'It is very important to keep improving access to health information and think about the most effective ways to deliver it so people use this knowledge for their well-being,' Matheus explains. 'Obviously, patient-provider communication plays a big role in this. But new media like digital applications can also contribute.'
Science is sharing
His presentations titled The role of health literacy and the potential mediating function of depression in chronic kidney disease outcomes and Improving communication with patients using a digital tool got considerable attention from the international visitors at the conference. 'It is important to share science,' the student says. 'Topics that we research in Groningen can be of great importance to other countries and vice-versa. Talking about it leads to new perspectives and maybe even opportunities for further research by like-minded researchers.'
Before coming to Groningen, Matheus worked as a resident doctor in a hospital in Brazil. His understanding of the communication that takes place between a doctor and a patient is the perfect background for his current research. 'I paid a lot of attention to not talk to patients, but with them. It frustrates me when doctors remain distant from the people coming in for medical care. Health literacy is very patient oriented, and that fits me.'
Working as a researcher, however, was completely new to Matheus. In the first year of CPE, strong attention is given to statistics and research methods. A good preparation for what follows in year two of the programme. 'Most of my days are spent analyzing large data cohorts at the University Medical Center. Statistics, data, writing my thesis. It couldn't be more different from the work I used to do,' he says, smiling. 'But I love to learn and it is fundamental for a PhD track.'
Matheus did his research on the study opportunities abroad before coming to Groningen. 'Dutch universities are known for being well organized and highly qualified. I did most of my preparations online on this website called Nuffic Neso, which also deals with cultural differences. From punctuality and buying your first bicycle to the Dutch rain alert Buienradar – yes, every detail has been covered.'
There was only one thing he didn't expect to find. 'Work, social life and me time are well balanced in the Netherlands. In Brazil, I worked around 80 hours a week. When I tell that to my Dutch friends and coworkers, they look at me like I'm crazy. I love how the Dutch claim their free time and allow others to do so as well.'