An interview with Gérard Friedlander, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine at the Université Paris Descartes

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The Faculty of Medicine at the Université Paris Descartes is one of the leading medical teaching centres in France in terms of the number of students (about 13,000). It is regularly ranked 1st in France in terms of the percentage of students admitted to the top ranks of the medical internship examination. Our faculty took to the digital path several years ago and we intend to continue in this direction, given how the digital revolution can help train future doctors.

How would you describe the Faculty of Medicine at Paris Descartes?

The Faculty of Medicine at the Université Paris Descartes is one of the leading medical teaching centres in France in terms of the number of students (about 13,000). It is regularly ranked 1st in France in terms of the percentage of students admitted to the top ranks of the medical internship examination. These excellent results reflect the quality of the training base: our main goal is to train future doctors at the highest level whatever their speciality. The faculty has close ties with the great Parisian hospitals, such as Cochin, Necker and Georges Pompidou, and has signed agreements with eleven other hospitals. The Dean of the Faculty has the power to decide on the hiring of doctors in the above-mentioned hospitals in connection with the review of university hospital staff numbers.

What about research?

 This is a fundamental priority of our faculty. We have seven joint research centers covering the main fields of basic and clinical research. The Imagine Institute, located on the Necker hospital campus and specialised in genetic diseases, has 48 laboratories and 23 dedicated teams. The Cordeliers Research Centre hosts 150 researchers in two departments: “Physiology and Pathophysiology”; and “Cancer, Immunity and Immunopathology.” The Claude Bernard Grand Prix, awarded annually by the City of Paris to a researcher for the whole of their work and commitment to medical research, was awarded in 2016 to Guido Kroemer, Professor at the Faculty of Medicine of the Université de Paris Descartes and head of INSERM’s research team on “Apoptosis, Cancer and Immunity”. This award acknowledges his outstanding ground-breaking work on apoptosis and autophagy in connection with the occurrence of cancer.

How many teachers do you have?

The faculty has about 800 teachers who have medical training and who conduct research. This triple facet enables both theoretical and practical teaching to be dispensed. The three elements all feed each other. Advances in research have a direct impact on the hospital project. Training is linked to what is done in the hospital which is itself an extension of the classroom. The goal is to train highly qualified doctors who are fully operational by the end of their university studies.

How visible are you internationally?

We have partnerships with medical faculties in both English and French-speaking countries. They take the form of international conferences such as that on emergency medicine in a situation of crisis organised jointly with Harvard University in Paris in June 2016. A second aspect concerns organising hospital internships abroad, in the US, the UK, China, and so on. The goal is to enable our students to discover how medical systems work in other countries. In return, we welcome foreign students for training courses and internships. Another notable initiative is the I3DC project (International Intensive Infectious Disease Courses), which brings together the Faculty of Medicine, the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Rome and the University of Edinburgh. Intensive courses on infectious diseases have been put in place: the project is financed by the European Union.

How has the digital revolution affected Paris Descartes?

Our faculty took to the digital path several years ago and we intend to continue in this direction, given how the digital revolution can help train future doctors. We have developed the iLumens educational platform which includes simulation rooms fitted out with all the standard equipment found in a hospital. Thanks to high fidelity models, it is possible to work on a patient in a virtual situation. Since 2013, our students have been doing their examinations on tablets and laptops. In 2016, a further step was taken with the internship examination taken on digital tablets in 34 university centres in France over a secure national network. Conducting such an examination on such a scale in real-time was a world’s first.

How do you support start-ups?

Since 2000 Paris Descartes has been host to Paris Biotech Santé, an incubator to support projects in the development of drugs, medical facilities and care of patients. Over the past sixteen years 118 spinoffs, employing 1,200 employees, have emerged. This experience has enabled an incubator to be launched on the campus of Cochin hospital.


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©OECD Observer No 309 Q1 2017

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