Seven minutes in stroke - Mirjam Heldner



1. What inspired you towards neuroscience?
As a child I had a deep fascination in astronomy and in the human body and being. I did not decide to become an astronomist or astronaut, but to study medicine. During medical school, I enjoyed reading neuroscience related books and articles, the neurological lectures and my elective Neurology rotation in the 6th year of medical school. That’s when I decided to become a Neuroscientist. Why did I choose this medical specialty rather than another one? I think neuroscience mostly resembles my other never-changed interest and fascination about astronomy, in it’s complexity, beauty and amount of unanswered questions. More importantly, both neuroscience and astronomy rely on profound examination and thinking. They even share some terms such as “penumbra“, which furthermore relates to the stroke field.
2. Why stroke?
I have always liked internal medicine besides neuroscience. Stroke patients frequently have
internal medicine related problems, much more than patients with many other neurological
diseases. Furthermore, the question ‘why stroke?’ is linked to my decision to study medicine and not to become an astronomist or astronaut. Even since I was little, I have wanted to  ease the suffering of children, adults and animals. For example, I saved several snails from being crushed deliberately by a naughty school mate. 

Stroke devastates lives at any age and worldwide, and is the leading cause of disability and the 2nd (3rd in Europe) leading cause of death globally. Stroke is treatable, but there is still a long way we have to go reducing the suffering stroke causes. I can contribute to this journey with my enthusiasm, not only as a stroke clinician, but also by being active and highly motivated in teaching and in stroke research - and importantly not only locally in Berne, the place with very good opportunities.

3. What have been the highs so far?
There are many. I wish to highlight the following ones:
a) Experiencing several grateful patients and relatives, frequently because of good or even
excellent outcomes after acute stroke treatment.
b) Having new ideas, finding new answers to open questions in the stroke field.
c) Working in our Bernese Stroke Unit, at our Bernese Stroke Center with a very nice team.
d) Participating at ESO conferences and schools and meeting many motivated Strokologists
from all over the world with different cultural backgrounds. Several of them have become my
good friends.
e) Currently, having the opportunity doing a Stroke Research Fellowship in Oxford/UK (Oxford Vascular Study Group, Prof. Dr. Peter Rothwell).
f) Teaching students, nurses and the public about stroke medicine.
g) That my grandmother got a bridging thrombolysis at our Bernese Stroke Center for her major stroke due to a basilar artery occlusion in March 2014 and that she keeps telling me, that she is happy having survived the stroke, with her life, which I really can see in her eyes.
Objectively she has a mRS of 4 and moderate post-stroke dementia.
h) Receiving an ESO prize and getting grants for interesting research projects.

4. What have been the lows?
Realising, that opportunities as a stroke patient and as a strokologist differ a lot worldwide.

5. How do you balance work life with the needs of home life?
My hobbies and social network are important for me. I like exploring and I often travel  worldwide to broaden my horizon and to get insight into different ways of living. I enjoy spending time in nature. I do sports, especially skiing, swimming, hiking and since I am in Oxford, I have started rowing - sometimes at 6am, several times a week and including gym sessions. I enjoy thought-provoking conversations, reading good books of all sorts, taking photographs, visiting museums, attending cultural events and classical music concerts.

6. Who are your most important mentors and how did you find them?
Prof. Dr. Heinrich Mattle (Berne): who as a great Neurologist and Strokologist contributed a lot to my interest and fascination in stroke in my early career and paved my way into the world of stroke medicine.
Prof. Dr. Urs Fischer (Berne) and Prof. Dr. Marcel Arnold (Bern): Who have been extremely
helpful through my professional journey so far. This by strongly supporting my clinical and
research interests in the stroke field since I started my Neurology training, providing me with
several opportunities for my professional development.
PD Dr. Simon Jung (Berne): Who has mostly been my day-to-day supervising clinical stroke
consultant so far. He has greatly fascilitated my delight in working in the stroke field. This by
sharing his fascination in stroke and his talent asking pathophysiological, investigational and
treatment-related questions and trying to answer them in clinical work and research.
Prof. Dr. Peter Rothwell (Oxford): Who gave me the chance, to do a Stroke Research Fellowship in Oxford, which is broadening my horizon not only from a professional, but also from a personal and social point of view.

7. What are your most important collaborations and how have you built them?
I think the key factor for collaborations is to join open questions, ideas and wishes to unite efforts.
I have different collaborations locally, and within and outside Switzerland. At our Bernese
University hospital, the collaboration with the Neuroradiologists is outstanding with a long tradition and has boosted the (hyper-)acute stroke treatment at our center. Other collaborations that are important include the collaborations with different Swiss strokologists through a straight forward professional community and also collaborations worldwide. I made the initial contact of many of my collaborators through the ESO conferences or schools if not through my mentors.
Seven minutes in stroke - Mirjam Heldner Reviewed by Carmen Lahiff-Jenkins on Monday, November 28, 2016 Rating: 5

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