KU LEUVEN PIONEERS AN ACADEMIC DEGREE IN THE SCIENCE OF SWALLOWING: THE MASTER OF SCIENCE IN DEGLUTOLOGY

The prevalence and impact of dysphagia over the last 10 years has been striking and it would be naive to think that this evolution will slow down. In the coming decennia the impact of dysphagia will continue to grow, partially because of the aging population and improved medical survival rates.

Swallowing is regulated by different body systems such as the brain, ear-nose-throat, breathing and upper digestion. The risk that one or more of these systems are affected in case of dysphagia, is high. Therefore, the knowledge across these different domains is key to clinical care of dysphagia but is nowadays too often spread across individual professions. The overarching professional discipline bridging these different skills is deglutology, the science and clinical care of swallowing. Despite the crucial need for integrated academic training in the field of deglutology, unified transdisciplinary education was lacking.

Against this background, pioneering an Advanced Master of Science in Deglutology programme seemed timely. The KU Leuven deglutology programme meets an urgent clinical need as society will be increasingly confronted with patients with dysphagia. The programme answers a range of unmet requests from students, clinicians, researchers as well as from the broad professional medical education field.

It is our vision that the care for dysphagia patients needs to be performed in a safe and professional way by professionals who have in-depth knowledge and skills through specialised academic education. Our Advanced Master’s programme builds and provides the much-needed academic foundations to deliver competent graduates able to cope with this complex care of patients who are unable to eat or drink safely, now and in the future. It is that profound academic approach which makes our programme unique, not only in Europe but across the world.

Dysphagia scientific research has also known an exponential growth in recent years. The number of papers citating dysphagia in the Pubmed database increased from 879 in year 1990 to 3236 in year 2020. Dysphagia papers almost quadrupled as compared to thirty years ago. This illustrates that there is an increased interest in developing skills to perform competitive scientific research and writing, which this programme offers.

The programme targets Master’s in Medicine or Dentistry or candidates who obtained a health-related Master’s degree such as Speech Pathology, Physiotherapy and Occupational Therapy.

The programme is developed as an Advanced Master’s level and clearly differentiates from an initial Master’s programme where the topic of dysphagia is merely one of many pathologies with dedicated training time. The deglutology programme distinguishes itself in terms of advanced and in-depth theoretical knowledge, skills training in instrumental diagnostic procedures and extensive clinical training in dysphagia related to both oropharynx as well as the oesophagus.

In September 2021, the Master of Science in Deglutology will start its fifth academic year. The programme has been awarded the formal European Union accreditation after evaluation by an international accreditation body steered by the Ministry of Education in Belgium. The programme received an excellent review and was complemented for its quality, relevance and future importance.

Selected students will enjoy a one-year interdisciplinary programme in the vibrant city of Leuven, Belgium. Courses of this one-year master’s programme will start at the end of September 2021, are taught in English and are scheduled on Mondays, Tuesdays and occasionally during the evening.

Interdisciplinary clinical electives are organised in the JCI accredited University Hospital Leuven (UZ Leuven), Belgium, and are tailored to the needs of the students to the largest extent possible. Deadlines for applications are 1 March 2021 for non-EEA applicants and 1 June 2021 for EEA applicants and non-EEA applicants living in Belgium with a residence permit.

Given current COVID-19 circumstances, our Admissions office can agree to a flexible deadline. However, we advise participants who require a residence permit (mainly participants from outside the European Economic Area) to apply for their permit approximately three months in advance of the start of the academic year meaning the end of June 2021.

All information about the programme is available on the website www.deglutology.com. For questions about the content or structure of the programme, please contact us directly at deglutology@kuleuven.be.

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