The three medical students from Gothenburg atop Pittsburgh’s renowned lookout point, Mount Washington, alongside new research friends: Joseph Giusto (USA), Luigi Jakobsson, Marco Vecchia (Italy), Ebba Olsson, and Moa Engström.

Medical students visited world-leading research in the USA


Three weeks at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. What does it mean for three Swedish medical students working on their master’s theses? ”It provides motivation and inspiration to be among doctors from all over the world,” says Moa Engström.

Ebba Olsson, Luigi Jakobsson, and Moa Engström are working on their master’s projects, all within the field of orthopaedics/sports medicine.

In March, they broadened their horizons by spending three weeks at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC). There, they shadowed orthopaedic professor Volker Musahl and his team, who research injuries, including Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL) injuries.

In Pittsburgh, they’re world-leading in ACL research, so it felt obvious for me to go there

“We’ve completed a brief observership where we primarily shadowed in clinics and during surgeries. Additionally, we’ve attended lectures on various topics in sports medicine and ‘ACL meetings’ discussing the latest research on ACL injuries. Since UPMC is world-leading in ACL research, it felt obvious for me to go there,” explains Luigi Jakobsson.

His thesis is a systematic review of clinical outcomes of ACL reconstruction in children and adolescents still growing.

Dr Musahl, also a visiting professor in Gothenburg, got his own Swedish national team jersey signed by his Swedish guests. The clinic walls in Pittsburgh are decorated with jerseys signed by famous athletes who have been treated here.

“Like a research headquarters”

What was your experience like in the research environment at UPMC?
“It feels like being in a research headquarters. Being with doctors from all over the world gives motivation and inspiration. Projects feel accessible and abundant, it’s just a matter of choice. It’s fast-paced, and there’s always something happening,” says Moa Engström, whose master’s thesis focuses on ACL injuries in judo.

“Doctor Musahl’s team consists of about ten research fellows from different parts of the world. They work closely, alternating clinic days with their own research. Many participate in multiple projects simultaneously. Research is heavily emphasized here and is integrated several times a week into ‘regular’ clinic work, such as ACL meetings and book clubs, where other published articles are also discussed,” says Ebba Olsson.

In her thesis, she examines whether patient-specific variables – such as gender, BMI, and age – can serve as predictors for the two-year outcome after posterior cruciate ligament surgery.

Surgery day starting at seven in the morning before the first operation. From left: Moa Engström, Joseph Giusto, Marco Vecchia, Ebba Olsson, and Luigi Jakobsson.

“World-class throughout”

What experiences will you carry from Pittsburgh that may benefit you in the future as doctors and researchers?
“Partly, I’ve gained a new perspective on healthcare systems, which operate entirely differently in the USA than back home in Sweden. In short, it’s extremely service-oriented, for better or worse! It’s also been a fantastic experience to have followed Doctor Musahl, who is world-class through and through, both as a person and a doctor,” says Luigi Jakobsson.

“Above all, I carry the connections made with other students/researchers. That, and the abundance of career opportunities within the medical profession. It’s fascinating to see the various paths one can take. It was also interesting to witness how efficient healthcare is at UPMC. They maximize time and patient contact, which I believe we can truly learn from in Sweden with our waiting lists. There was no gap between surgeries or patients, yet they still received top-notch care,” says Moa Engström.

It has sparked thoughts of perhaps trying to establish a similar specialty at home

“I’m mainly bringing the insight of how different Sweden and the USA operate. Doctor Musahl and many on his team have a sports-oriented orthopaedic specialty, which I find very interesting. There isn’t a direct equivalent in Sweden, but it’s sparked thoughts of maybe trying to build a similar specialty at home,” says Ebba Olsson.

The Gothenburg students also managed to visit the Petersen Events Center and catch a Pittsburgh Panthers college basketball game.

A flying start in research

Kristian Samuelsson, professor of orthopaedics at the Institute of Clinical Sciences, supervises these three students during their master’s projects.

“I’ve sent several doctoral students and medical candidates to UPMC in Pittsburgh. Professor Volker Musahl is highly prominent in our field. They have a very high pace and an exceptional scientific environment with a large number of guest researchers from all over the world,” says Kristian Samuelsson, continuing:

“Our students get a flying start in research. They get to connect with many like-minded individuals from around the world and get inspired for the future. They also get to see a different system and how it functions, both clinically and in terms of research. It provides perspectives that are beneficial for everyone.”

Text: Jakob Lundberg