Medical Student from Slovakia Learns from the Best in Hospice Care


4th year medical student Jakub Svedek says he’s grateful for the opportunity to work with Medical Director Dr. Michael Pinchback, and the team of compassionate care givers at Our Lady of Peace (OLP). “I will remember Dr. Pinchback as a smart physician who was friendly to me and made sure I had a good stay here and used my time well,” he said.

A Google search for hospices in Minnesota brought Jakub to OLP. “I was looking at a map online, and I wrote hospice in search and OLP popped up,” he explained. “I chose the Twin Cities based on other things I like to do.”

Not afraid to travel, Jakub toured Europe after high school in Dubnica nad Vahom, Slovakia. “I like exploring new places and learning from people, and I’ve been welcomed wherever I go,” he said with a smile. “I don’t just sight see because l like to talk to people and explore the country through them.” 

Exploring hospice and palliative care showed Jakub that it’s something he may want to pursue after working in internal medicine for a while, something that is required in his country before choosing a specialty. “I took a palliative care class at university and wanted to experience it on my own for a longer period. I will bring the things I’ve learned at OLP back to my country,” he said.

Scheduling pain medication for patient comfort is something Jakub learned from Dr. Pinchback, along with managing the process of death. “I learned a lot about medications and how it’s important to manage a patient’s pain,” he said. “I also learned it’s important to regulate the doses to ensure the patient isn’t foggy or confused, so they can talk to their family.”  

Jakub had the opportunity to do hands-on care for patients and learned the importance of respect and dignity in every situation. “Even though you may think a patient is asleep, they still might hear you,” Jakub explained. “I witnessed a patient responding to Dr. Cross while snoring, so it’s always important to do the right thing, even though they may not hear you. Focus on their dignity.”

While in the Twin Cities, Jakub has enjoyed the time off from a rigorous medical school schedule that will continue for two more years. He’s also discovered bagels, Reese’s peanut butter cups, and salted butter, none of which can be found in Slovakia. He also sang karaoke at a birthday party and attended the Minnesota Network of Hospice and Palliative Care (MNHPC) Gala with OLP staff. A visit to Minnehaha Falls is on his agenda, along with a trip to a Minnesota lake.

As Jakub prepares to head back to medical school in Prague, he said he’s thankful he could be here. “It’s good to learn here and see hospice patients, something I don’t get to see at home because there are fewer hospices in Slovakia,” he said.