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Christian A. Gericke, MD, PhD, MPH, MSc, MBA, FACP, on forging your own path by following your passions

 

Christian A. Gericke, MD, PhD, MPH, MSc, MBA, FACP
Christian A. Gericke, MD, PhD, MPH, MSc, MBA, FACP
— OCCUPATION: —
Clinical Director of Neurology, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, Australia
Professor of Medicine, University of Queensland

— MEDICAL SCHOOL —
Free University of Berlin/Tufts and Harvard Medical Schools

— INTERNAL MEDICINE RESIDENCY —
Neurology Residency—Charité University Hospital Berlin
Epilepsy Fellowship—University Hospitals of Strasbourg

What is your current position?

Clinical Director of Neurology, The Prince Charles Hospital, Brisbane, Australia

Professor of Medicine, University of Queensland

Where did you attend medical school and postgrad training?

Medical School—Free University of Berlin and 1 year as DAAD Scholar at Tufts and Harvard Medical Schools

Doctor of Medicine Research Doctorate in Neuroscience—Free University of Berlin

Neurology Residency—Charité University Hospital Berlin

Epilepsy Fellowship—University Hospitals of Strasbourg

Master of Science in Health Policy, Planning and Financing—London School of Economics and London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London

Master of Public Health—University of Cambridge

Master of Business Administration—Deakin University, Melbourne

Habilitation (PhD) in Public Health—Berlin University of Technology

Why did you choose to become a physician?

I have always been a learner. As I child, I loved to read every book I could lay my hands on. At the age of 6, I was an expert on dinosaurs. At 15, I was devouring philosophy books in addition to my previous love for biology and foreign languages. From this age, I knew that I wanted to study medicine. I loved the complexity of human biology and the idea of advancing scientific knowledge with the aim of helping people.

What field of internal medicine did you select and why?

I fell in love with neurology in my first year of medical school. I was attracted to the complexity of CNS anatomy and physiology and the fact that our brains are what make us human. After my epilepsy fellowship, I wanted to change the world for more than one patient at a time and started studying public health.

Please describe a typical day in your practice.

I am an academic neurologist and public health physician, an unusual combination. I am chairman of a neurology department in a tertiary hospital. This means a mix of inpatient and outpatient attending physician work plus video-EEG interpretation and departmental administration. In my academic role, I teach residents and medical students and supervise MPH, MD, and PhD students. I am also active in health policy and advocacy, trying to improve the functioning of our health system.

What are some of your special interests professionally?

Within neurology, my special interest is epilepsy and clinical neurophysiology. In public health, it is health policy and management, safety and quality, and access to affordable medicines. I love to work on international consultancy projects with development aid or international agencies, such as the World Health Organization. For the last 2 years, I have also taught an intensive course in neurology for internal medicine residents in the Pacific Islands.

What are your interests and hobbies outside of medicine?

I love spending my free time outdoors, on a beach, or in the mountains. I walk my dog every day and work out three times a week in the gym to keep fit. I have always enjoyed cooking for and with family and friends. We cook an eclectic mix of French and Italian, Middle Eastern, and Asian food. I always loved reading fiction. Nowadays, I read mostly historical crime, fantasy and science fiction. Recently, I started writing fiction myself. I am a student in the UCLA Creative Writing program and am enjoying it greatly!

What advice would you like to share with medical students, or what do you wish someone would have told you while you were in medical school?

Don't fear choosing an unusual path if that is what you love doing. Given ever increasing student debts, too many medical students focus on getting a job in a specialty that pays well. This is a recipe for disaster! It will only lead to mediocrity and unhappiness. I think it is far better to take a few more years to pay back your debt and do something you are passionate about. Sometimes it is hard to see in a busy clinical job, but one of the beauties of medicine is that there are many side avenues that you can pursue that can enrich your life and career.

Which living person do you most admire?

Terry Pratchett, an English fantasy writer. Unfortunately, he died a few years ago. He had a fantastic sense of humor and boundless imagination. If you don't know him, I recommend his novels “Mort” or the “Colour of Magic”. At 69, he was diagnosed with posterior cortical atrophy and kept writing fiction until shortly before his death. After his diagnosis, he was shocked how little money gets spent on dementia research compared to cancer and became a fervent political activist to raise more funds for dementia research.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I would have loved to learn to play the piano or to sing but, alas, I am not musically gifted. My maternal grandfather was a musician and I regret that I did not inherit his talent.

Who is your hero of fiction?

I like heroes who are clever, humane, and who grow in the face of adversity. I love the character of Dr. Giordano Bruno in the historical crime novels by SJ Parris. Her stories are inspired by the real Giordano Bruno who was a multi-talented, 16th century Dominican monk. His philosophical ideas were so eccentric that he managed to be excommunicated by the Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran churches. Not to mention that he worked as a spy for Queen Elizabeth I of England.

What historical figure do you most identify with?

I greatly admire the scientists and physicians of the age of enlightenment. People like Giordano Bruno, Johannes Kepler, Nicolaus Copernicus, Galileo Galilei, Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Willis or William Harvey, who are now seen as the founders of modern science and medicine. They dared to question the knowledge they were taught at university and instead formulated their own scientific theories based on observation and experiment.

Back to the September 2021 issue of ACP IMpact

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