Interview with Katharina Schulz and Julia Holzapfel, Supervisors of EaT Jena, Germany

Cardiology, pneumology, oncology – almost every module studied as part of a degree in Medicine teaches about the consequences of smoking. For many budding doctors though, learning isn’t enough. Two medical students from Jena, Katharina Schulz (left) and Julia Holzapfel (right), also want to bring these issues to light before it’s too late: at school, in front of 10-15 year olds. The two students have resolved to found their own group in the area, which is set to visit its first classes in the coming months.

The weather in Jena is beautiful – spring is making itself felt. My two interview partners, Katharina and Julia, are in their eighth semester. Despite the demands of their studies – and the lovely weather outside – they both want to take on additional responsibilities. Why?

Katharina: ‘My nursing placement in Pneumology (lung diseases) really had an impact on me. Aside from that, I also have lots of friends, who want to give up, but just don’t manage to. That’s why I think that timely prevention is the better option.’

Julia: ‘In my own personal circle, I know people who have died from the consequences of smoking. Others are still alive, but are suffering badly from smoking-related illnesses. Even though I’m used to sickness as a medical student, this really affects me.’

When it comes to patients, Julia, what have you had to experience already through your studies?

Julia: ‘In the pre-clinical part of my course, I also did a nursing placement in Pneumology and came into contact with lung cancer patients every day, some of whom, although they were really very ill, still went into the courtyard to smoke if they could manage it. And then there were the nurses, who cared for these people and saw the dreadful seriousness of the consequences, but still took a cigarette break. Or you walk through the park and see mothers, or even pregnant women, who, regardless of their children, smoke one cigarette after another. All that just makes me sad, and I simply can’t understand it. But have you ever discussed smoking with a smoker? Reasoning doesn’t really do much, you just get answers like, ‘I might get run over by a bus, instead of dying from smoking.’ All these examples show very clearly that it’s very difficult to reach someone who’s addicted with logical reasoning. That’s why I think this project is so great. It begins at a time when smoking hasn’t yet been taken up and sheds light on smoking early on and in a nuanced way. In my opinion exactly the right starting point! And if I can contribute to reducing the number of people affected by the consequences of smoking, then that’s a great thing.’

Julia and Katharina, thank you very much for your answers and good luck with your launch in Jena.