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On 2 February 2018 the Latvian Student Union’s annual award in the category Student of the Year was presented to Riga Stradiņš University (RSU) 5th year medical student and technical assistant at the Faculty of Medicine, Department of Biology and Microbiology Veronika Baltmane.

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The 23 year old medicine student from Latgale with varied interests, able to adapt to different situations and people, with overwhelming energy, creativity, a sense of responsibility, excellent communication skills, an outgoing personality and a good sense of humour.

Born in Riga, raised and educated in Ilūkste which has remained her hometown, the town where her parents and youngest sister still live. Already during her high school years, the director of Ilukste High School No.1 saw the leader in her, able to direct and captivate others.

In 2011 she was among the winners of the scholarship competition for school children with bright minds, titled Latvijas izcilnieki - in the humanities category. During her high school years she dreamt of becoming a plastic surgeon - now, with five hard study years at the Faculty of Medicine behind her, she intends to make the choice between paediatric surgery, clinical microbiology or paediatric infectious diseases.

The winner of the Annual Award is active in research, writes scientific papers and theses, participates and speaks at conferences. She is head of the RSU Surgery Interest Group and played an active role in establishing the RSU Microbiology Interest Group. Veronika volunteers at the Children’s Clinical University Hospital, Department of Orthopaedic Surgery. After graduation she would be willing to work at this hospital as Veronika believes it to be one of the most well-organised hospitals and children are something she is interested in the most, however she also recognises her interest in academic work.

Veronika Baltmane is an active member of RSU Student Union and a project manager at the student-led popular and scientific journal Semper Anticus, being involved not only in the editorial side, but also in promotion of the journal. Among multiple other activities and projects, she also participated in the implementation of Doctors’ Safe Train - a project to offer senior medical students the opportunity to fine-tune their skills on animal tissues in well-equipped surgical wards. "Our students have never had such a training opportunity before. Now, the five best applicants to be selected on the basis of pre-defined criteria will be given a chance, whereby their participation will be covered from the Student Union’s budget”, Veronika is enthusiastic about the possibilities offered by the project.

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Photo by Veronika Baltmane

In her free time, she captures beautiful moments in photographs, jogs, attends fitness classes, goes to the theatre, enjoys good movies, music, reads detective novels, poetry etc.

More about photographer Veronika Baltmane (in Latvian)

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What is happiness?

There is this overwhelming sense of happiness when a person is shining because of some vital and beautiful experiences and there is a sense of daily happiness which I experience when my life is organised, I have accomplished everything I planned to, there are no delayed deadlines. This feeling of accomplishment makes me feel in harmony with myself. It is important for me to finish my work and to be in harmony with people around me. In case there are any disagreements or issues, it is important for me to have them solved as quickly as reasonably possible.

What can throw you off balance?

Situations when I cannot help or when there is nothing to be changed.

What are your plans for the nearest future?

Currently I am working on several scientific articles to be finished and I am planning a study on whether and how the publication of children’s photos on social media affects their psyche.

Certainly, I want to graduate from the Faculty of Medicine and proceed with residency in paediatric surgery, clinical microbiology or paediatric infectious diseases, doctoral studies or alternatively the Master’s study programme “Health Management”.

I want to improve my German proficiency, restart learning French and Spanish. I have thought of devoting more time to photography workshops, master classes, to devote more time for myself and to things I am interested in alongside medical studies as medicine is not my entire life – otherwise life is passing you by. By being active in multiple projects, student organisations and volunteering I learn so many useful things that I could have never learned if I would have devoted my entire time solely to medicine.

Considering your involvement in so many activities, is it enough with 24 hours?

I would like the day to be longer [Laughs]. There have been moments when I cannot and do not want to get out of bed – then I realise that it is too much. Then I take a break, rest together with my friends. The best way for recharging the batteries is to break away from the daily routine.

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What is your driving force?

I have started by doing and I can no longer stop. If I stopped, I would be bored! I love doing! I have always been very active – at school I participated in contests, I had private tutors, I graduated art school, played basketball, volleyball, participated in various projects and I felt good. I am used to having a lot to do. When I feel that I need a break, I just take one.

What is the most important thing in life?

Family. In the best case scenario, I manage to visit my family in Ilūkste once a month. This is where I can escape the hustle and bustle and rest with my younger sister and parents. Each time I visit them I try to bring home some special treats from Riga. I am happy when I am with them. There is nothing more important than your family, as they will accept you in any situation, also when I have fallen and will give me a helping hand to get up.

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RSU rector Aigars Pētersons congratulates winner of the annual Latvian Student Union’s award in the category Student of the Year - Veronika Baltmane. 5 February 2018

Why did you choose to become a doctor?

I like helping others and making them feel good. When I took the entrance exams at RSU, I knew that I will work in my profession after graduation, and I will always have a job! This is what I want to do and I will do!

Have you thought of returning to your hometown and working there?

We have talked about this with my friends and I know that I certainly would like to live and work in Latvia. Yes, I could spend a semester or do a traineeship abroad but I will bring the knowledge back home.

Riga, certainly, offers more comprehensive choices for a medical practitioner to practice medicine, perform research or even when it is required to consult a colleague. I would like to have my principal workplace in Riga, but I could probably arrange a possibility to practice in Ilūkste a couple of times each month.

What is the key to becoming a good doctor?

You must know how to communicate with and how to listen to a patient. You must be polite, considerate, tolerant, willing to cooperate and explain what is happening with the patient and what you as a doctor intend to do. You must give the patient the confidence that the doctor is a person of trust. If a patient has confidence in the doctor, 50% of the work has been done. The second issue is knowledge. You just cannot do without it. You must be a good specialist! The third thing is that a doctor must take care of his visual appearance – wear clean clothes and look after himself.

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Photo by: Veronika Baltmane

What are the most complicated aspects of medical studies?

To find the most appropriate study method for each study subject to be able to meet the academic requirements. It gets complicated for me when I do not know the best study materials for mastering a particular subject – books in Latvian, publications by foreign authors, video lectures by guest lecturers or all of these together. I want to learn and to understand the subjects as well as it is possible, however sometimes it is difficult to grasp the range of information, pick the most important and the most effective knowledge for me.

What will the topic of your thesis be?

Actually, I am not planning to write one as I am a prize winner of an international conference. In 2017 I won 3rd prize at the RSU International Student Conference "Health and Social Sciences" in the panel Infectious Diseases, Dermatovenerology, Microbiology, Immunology, Allergology for my paper: The bacteriological contamination of peripheral intravenous catheters in the cardiology department. I hope that it will be equated to a thesis. However, it does not mean that I will not continue research activity. As I already mentioned, on the contrary - I am planning to launch a new study.

What, in your opinion, is the most significant achievement in medicine? The first thought that comes to mind…..

Antibiotics. Thanks to antibiotics we are able to cure 1/3 of all diseases. I cannot think of a world without antibiotics!

What would you wish for the freshmen that will start studies at RSU this September?

First I would wish them to carefully consider their choice, to understand if medicine is their true passion as it is a difficult road which will not suit everyone.

I wish for them to study hard! Certainly there will be subjects that can be mastered without spending days and nights poring over books, however it would be foolish to rely solely on luck without studying, as knowledge will be your asset for your professional life.

Believe in yourself! No one will believe in you more than yourself. You do not have to be arrogant and walk around with your nose in the air, however you have to believe in yourself, otherwise you will not succeed.

Cooperate with your classmates. Do not shut yourself off, be friendly, study together as it is easier to master the study load together.

Anyway, remember that being a medical student will be a tough job!

Latvian Student Union’s Annual Award

The Latvian Student Union’s (LSU) Annual Awards is an opportunity to mark out individuals, organisations and events that have left a significant impact on students, have drawn public attention to an issue, essential results, events or other activities in the previous year.

The nomination Student of the Year is meant to praise students who serve as an example and inspire others. To nominate a student for the award, indicate his/her weighed average grade, social activities, scientific and research work or sports achievements.

More information on the LSA Annual Award