Two weeks at the Cochrane Collaboration Center in Split

I first considered the possibility of going to Split after I saw Livia Puljak and Ana Jerončić at EuroNet 2017 summer meeting in Motovun, Croatia. They told us about some of the projects they had worked on and also commented on some of the internships they had hosted which had apparently been very fruitful. They even mentioned the possibility of arranging accommodation for interns. I had been in Split back in 2007 and an internship at the Cochrane Collaboration Center seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was a win win.

After several weeks of contemplation I decided to formally request the internship through EuroNet Internship’s work group. Through the group I contacted Damir Ivanković the rather shy but charming Croatian representative in the group, who provided me with practical information for my stay, as part of the “internship tutor” program within the work group. He enabled a first contact with both Ana and Livia so as to talk about their current projects at the time to see if any would fit my interests and objectives.

After a couple of emails we settled on some learning objectives and the possibility of future collaboration. One of the apartments that the Split School of Medicine has built into it was free so I was lucky enough to have accommodation arranged for free. Then the paperwork nightmare began. After receiving Ana’s formal invitation I had some trouble from my teaching unit back in Valencia. At one point I realized my application form had been misplaced and I had to start the process again. Luckily, all permissions were granted in time.

My arrival was a little rough. I was going to Split right after EuroNet winter meeting, so it took three flights and several uber rides. Once I got to the right address, Ana was waiting for me (it was almost midnight) and showed me to the apartment. After a good night’s sleep we met for coffee at the university’s cantina. Despite our original agreement being to do some work on regression models, we realized we had a common interest in statin therapy, and then and there decided to engage in a completely different project involving systematic review and guideline quality assessment. I am now extremely glad we did.

Croats are amazing hosts, and the people I met during my stay in Split were no exception. Ana was extremely kind and both her and the rest of the members of the Cochrane Collaboration Center and the Split School of Medicine made my short stay feel like second home from day 1. There is, however, one obvious drawback. December is not the best time for a stay in Croatia. Split is an extremely lively city during summer, with dozens of clubs just a couple of meters from the Adriatic sea and plenty of outdoor life, but during winter things change. Many of the bars and restaurants I had been told about were closed, and a strong, cold, wet wind blew angrily for days from the sea.

Looking back I am really glad I decided to apply, both for the short but intense learning experience but also for the great people I met. I am currently in touch with Ana as we continue to work on our project on the quality of cardiovascular disease prevention guidelines and hope to visit her again in the future and that she holds onto my promise and comes to Valencia to try some real paella.

Julio Muñoz
Public Health Resident from Spain