2019 Spring Blog Denmark DIS External Programs Giovanny Zapata

Core Course Week: The DIS Appetizer

Unique to DIS is what we call Core Course Week or CCW for short. During this faculty-led three day tour to Western Denmark, Sweden, or even Northern Germany, students are able to visit facilities, meet professionals, and participate in cultural immersion activities in order to learn outside the classroom and bond with their core class. After the three days, students usually have 1-2 days of reflection and final facility tour visits within Copenhagen. It’s what I call “The DIS Appetizer” because it gives a taste before the Long Week Tour occurs in March to all over Europe! Future post(s) for that to come!

As mentioned in one of my previous blogs, I am a part of the Health Delivery and Prioritization course. My core class focuses on the Danish Healthcare System, encompassing public health attributes. My core class traveled to Western Denmark from Monday to Wednesday. Below I’ll break down what we did each day, as it was all fun-filled and ended up with us really appreciating DIS, our fellow classmates, our professors, and Denmark even more than we had before the trip!

Disclaimer: Every program had different itineraries unique to their course, but logistically were very similar to one another.


For our course, we have 2 professors: Louise, board member of the Danish Association of Public Health Science, and Maria, neonatal nurse and research and project manager for WoMena. Both are phenomenal professionals and faculty members. Usually, the trip is be led by both professors, but since Louise is a recent new mother, Christie, previous DIS student now Institutional Relations Coordinator and Masters students in Copenhagen, joined our trip. We met them both at 10am to get on our very own coach bus.

My core class learning to make Flødeboller from chocolatier Thormar Thorbergsson who comes all the way from Iceland! But first, we got to try some different flavors!

Our first stop was Odense, Denmark, located on Fyn, Denmark’s third largest island. Here, we started with a cultural activity of visiting a local chocolate shop in order to learn and make Flødeboller. Danish households often use these in place of cakes for special events. They tasted ammazzzzzing, but I’m not sure if I could eat more than 2! After, we went to our first facility visit to Odense University Hospital to hear from a nurse who works in the HIV Specialization Clinic. Here, we learned about HIV in Denmark and compared it to the United States. This was the first time I was in a hospital setting, which was very neat to see how it operates.

The guys and I learning to play keglebillard at a local pub in Odense, Denmark!

The rest of the day consisted of checking into our hostel, having a group dinner (all, but 1 of our meals were provided by DIS by the way cough cough), and having free time afterwards. After dinner, the guys in my class and I decided to go play billiards. We found this local pub and the manager ended up teaching us a traditional Danish game similar to billiards called keglebillard or Danish five-pin billiards.


Tuesday was our most jam-packed day! We began by traveling to Viborg, Denmark. This is located on Jutland, the largest geographic “island” (it still connects to Germany, but the easiest way to describe Denmark geographically). If you look at your left hand with your palm facing away from you, Viborg is located midway up your middle finger. Here we heard from Research Director Camilla Palmhøj on how the Central Region of Denmark operates. The 5 Regions are each filled with 41 politicians that decide how hospitals operate, where they are located, which have emergency wards, and all the logistics behind it. We learned that this takes up 90% of the Regions’ time as hospital planning is a crucial point in the Danish Healthcare System. Ironically, it is recent news that there is a big push to completely eliminate the Regions, so it was even more interesting to learn about something that may no longer exist in the next 4-5 months!

We got to sit in the exact seats that the Central Region politicians do. It was a very empowering atmosphere to know that crucial decisions related to the health of Denmark’s citizens occur in this room.

After this visit, we left to Horsens, Denmark, to visit their hospital. Here we visited many different types of health professionals and clinics such as physical therapists, pharmacists, dentists, and family doctors (or as they call them in Denmark, General Practitioners or GPs for short). After taking a tour of all the facilities, we were able to sit down and hold a discussion with a dentist and GP. 98% of the Denmark’s population has healthcare. The remaining 2% consists of the homeless and refugees. Healthcare is covered in Denmark, but dental care is not. I was able to ask burning questions such as how medical ethics play a whole role in Denmark since all GPs are private businesses and have to treat patients, but also run a business (and that can lead to many issues as you can imagine). As a pre-med student, I can easily go on and on about this visit and the comparison and contrast between the U.S. and Danish Healthcare system. Maybe a future post! (wink wink the foreshadowing). The rest of the night consisted of eating dinner at our hostel and being provided our own game/chill lounge for us to hangout, play games, and practice our hygge 😉


This was our last day in Western Denmark and the only event on our itinerary was another cultural immersion activity to Jelling Stones Monument. Here, we were able to take a guided outdoors tour (in traditional Danish weather…rainy, cold, wet weather yay!) and then walk through the exhibit. We learned about some viking history, probably to remind us why everyone in Denmark is so tall! I was able to see some unique artifacts and interactive work. I was even able to snag some cool pics in one of the exhibits! With our day now done, we went to probably my favorite café thus far in Denmark and had the TASTIEST chicken sandwich and potatoes. It sounds very simple, but you had to be there to enjoy the deliciousness. Just trust me!

I wasn’t kidding about the Danish weather! Don’t worry, my friend Paul from Providence College was DELIGHTED!


This was our most relaxed day as my class just met for three hours to reflect on our trip across Denmark and prepare for our last facility tour. Very chill that some of my fellow classmates and I ended up grabbing lunch and hanging out after. Always great to bond!


You’re looking at Dr. Marie-Laure B. Jacobsson, the youngest head of an Emergency Department in all of Denmark! A true inspiration!

Back on a bus we go! On the last day, we regrouped and hopped on a bus to head to Køge, Denmark, 45 minutes outside of Copenhagen. We visited an Emergency Ward and met with two ER doctors to hear more about the doctor-patient pathway in relation to the ER. Fun fact! Most Danes cannot just walk into an ER and request care. Most of the time, all Danes have to first get an approval from their GP to be seen at an ER. Of course there are exceptions, but they really instilled a strong filtering system here in Denmark to avoid overcrowding and unnecessary expenses in an ER. Academic-wise, this was my favorite part of the trip. Another fun fact! Emergency Medicine did not exist as an official medical specialty in Denmark until July 2018. Less than a year ago! That is insane to think about. In fact, the ER doctor we heard from was on the board that was able to get this specialty recognized and became the youngest head ER doctor in all of Denmark. A true…word I can’t say on here haha. As a student who wants to become an ER doctor in the United States, I enjoyed myself very much.

That was our “small” trip, so I am ecstatic for our Long Week Tour to Helsinki, Finland and Tallinn, Estonia! Hope you enjoyed the appetizer, stay tuned for the main course!

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