As a small village south of Bremen, Ditzum is home to appr. 1,200 inhabitants and the local doctor’s office. Every day Esther Voss has to take care of all kinds of different people, from young mothers with small children up to elderly citizens who need a lot of help from their family doctor. The art exhibition “New Homes – New Doctors” at the Haus der Kulturen der Welt shows how an increasing number of doctors are working under difficult conditions in East Germany as well as in the West.

Esther Voss has worked as a family doctor in Ditzum for almost one year now after she graduated from medical university in Bremen. The physician is about to move into her own new office on the next street. “It feels like you are at home,” she says, because of the nice view through the windows and also because of all kinds of personal touches that make it feel like her place.

Voss hands over some files to nurse Annalena Kohnke, who had come here straight away when she heard that Esther was searching for an assistant. They both know each other since school times, and they studied medicine together for two years before Annalena had to do her studies due to health reasons. She has recently been given the official paper that she is fit to work again. Nurse Kohnke worked as a nurse assistant in a hospital for a year before spending another two years at a pharmaceutical company, where she assisted doctors and pharmacists with technical questions. “I wanted to do something more,” she says, “that’s why I applied here.” After having moved from her eighth-floor flat in Bremerhaven to this small village by Bremen, it feels like coming home for Annalena Kohnke: “It’s great here,” she says.

New Homes – New Doctors

The exhibition New Homes – New Doctors shows how an increasing number of doctors are working under difficult conditions in East Germany as well as in the West. Nurse Kohnke is about to leave the office now because she must go home early today. She has her own son now, who is one-and-a-half years old. When she was still working in a hospital with children, he was still unborn. But she didn’t want to let down her friends and colleagues at the hospital, so she worked there until six weeks before giving birth to him even though it meant that she would have to work during most nights of the week as well as most weekends. “You just have vacations every once in a while,” says Annalena.

But Esther Voss is not unhappy that nurse Kohnke left earlier today: “She’s really good but sometimes too helpful.” Not everything in this job is easy, she says. But it’s rewarding too: “Suddenly you see a child who has been sick for three years healthy and smiling again.”

Before Esther Voss started working in Ditzum, there was no family doctor here, and people were also not very familiar with the different kinds of medicine. Now they are more open to homeopathy as well as to herbal remedies, which many still seem quite skeptical about at first. But after having tried them out, most people are convinced that these medicines work better than other drugs because they have fewer side effects.