Prof. Dr. Il-Kang Na became the new director of the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program (CSP) on January 1, 2023. The BIH Johanna Quandt Professor succeeds Prof. Duška Dragun, who headed the CSP until her untimely death in late 2020. In 2021 and 2022, Prof. Dr. Britta Siegmund and Prof. Dr. Dominik N. Müller took charge of the program on an interim voluntary basis. The Clinician Scientist Program of the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) and Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin enables physicians-in-training to conduct research alongside their clinical activities at different stages in their careers.
The BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Program (CSP) has continuously evolved over the past eleven years. Today, in addition to the standard CSP, there are also the Junior, Digital and Advanced Clinician Scientist Programs, thus providing structured, tailored support to young doctors in their career development, both during and after residency training. With currently about 150 active fellows and about 200 alumni, the Berlin-based programs are not only by far the largest of their kind in Germany, but according to the German Research Foundation (DFG) they also set best practice standards for the whole country – especially through their quality assurance measures.
The CSP’s new director holds a BIH Johanna Quandt Professorship and is head of the Immune System Defects and Dysfunctions in Tumor Patients Group at the BIH. She is also a senior physician in the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Tumor Immunology at Charité Campus Virchow-Klinikum. As a long-time member of the BIH Charité Clinician Scientist Board and as spokesperson of the Berlin School of Integrative Oncology (BSIO), she has additionally gained a wide range of experience in cultivating young medical talent. She wants to further develop the CSP in the longer term and adapt measures that support young physicians in academic medicine to the current situation. “The digital transformation and medical progress on the one hand, and the acute shortage of specialists and the pandemic on the other, pose special challenges for young physicians working in academic medicine today,” says Prof. Na. “Anyone who wants to seriously pursue research alongside clinical work needs support, especially in our current times, and that’s what we want to provide.”
Prof. Dr. Christopher Baum, Charité’s Chief Translational Research Officer and Chair of the BIH Board of Directors, congratulates the program’s new director: “Prof. Il-Kang Na is the perfect fit to lead the CSP. As a research physician herself, she is a role model for aspiring clinician scientists. Medical translation is about identifying medical problems, converting them into a research design, and translating the findings from the lab back to the clinic. That’s why clinician scientists are so important: They know what’s wrong with patients, while also understanding how to tackle the problem scientifically – thereby turning research into health.”
Prof. Dr. Joachim Spranger, Dean of Charité, first expressed his deep gratitude to Prof. Siegmund and Prof. Müller: “In addition to their many other duties, the two of them have led the program for two years on a voluntary basis with great dedication and a considerable extra time commitment. This has enabled us to ensure, without interruption, that up-and-coming physicians can conduct research at the highest level while at the same time undergoing further training to become specialists in the various disciplines. In Prof. Na, a superbly qualified colleague now takes over the leadership of this important and joint BIH-Charité program. I warmly congratulate Prof. Na on her new role and wish her every success in her upcoming duties. I’m convinced that she will contribute significantly to providing continued support to clinically active scientists at Charité, ensuring that they have protected time to devote to their research activities.”
Unlike under Prof. Dragun, who also served as director of the BIH Biomedical Innovation Academy (BIA), the CSP and the BIA will now have separate leadership. Dr. Nathalie Huber and Dr. Iwan Meij jointly lead the BIA, where they are successfully continuing Prof. Dragun’s work in academic staff development. The Clinician Scientist Office, including its head Dr. Huber, remains based at the BIA. Prof. Dr. Igor M. Sauer, deputy director of the Department of Surgery and head of Experimental Surgery at Charité, and his deputy, Prof. Dr. Robert Gütig, head of the BIH Mathematical Modeling of Neuronal Learning Group, lead the Digital Clinician Scientist Program. Prof. Na and her deputy, who is yet to be appointed, and the BIA’s leadership team will work together to ensure close collaboration between the various CS programs and the BIA.
About the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH)
The mission of the Berlin Institute of Health at Charité (BIH) is medical translation: transferring biomedical research findings into novel approaches to personalized prediction, prevention, diagnostics and therapies and, conversely, using clinical observations to develop new research ideas. The aim is to deliver relevant medical benefits to patients and the population at large. As the translational research unit within Charité, the BIH is also committed to establishing a comprehensive translational ecosystem – one that places emphasis on a system-wide understanding of health and disease and that promotes change in the biomedical translational research culture. The BIH was founded in 2013 and is funded 90 percent by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) and 10 percent by the State of Berlin. The founding institutions, Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin and the Max Delbrück Center, were independent member entities within the BIH until 2020. Since 2021 the BIH has been integrated into Charité as its so-called third pillar. The Max Delbrück Center is now the Privileged Partner of the BIH.
About Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin is one of the largest university hospitals in Europe, boasting 3,099 beds and approximately 100 departments and institutes spread across 4 separate campuses. At Charité, the areas of research, teaching and medical care are closely interlinked. With a total of 20,921 members of staff employed across its group of companies (17,615 of which at Charité), the organization is one of the largest employers in Berlin. 5,047 of its employees work in the field of nursing, with a further 4,988 in research and medical care. Last year, Charité treated 123,793 in- and day case patients, in addition to 682,731 outpatients. In 2021, Charité recorded a turnover of approximately € 2.3 billion (including external funding and investment grants) and set a new record by securing more than € 215.8 million in external funding. Charité’s Medical Faculty is one of the largest in Germany, educating and training more than 9,000 students across the subjects of medicine, dentistry, health sciences and nursing. Charité also offers 730 training positions across 11 different health care professions, in addition to 111 training positions in a further 8 professions. Within the field of academic medicine, Charité’s priorities are highlighted by its main areas of research focus: infection; inflammation and immunity including COVID-19 research; cardiovascular research and metabolism; neuroscience; oncology; regenerative therapies; and rare diseases and genetics. Examples of the work conducted by Charité researchers include involvement in 28 DFG Collaborative Research Centers (of which seven are led by Charité), three Clusters of Excellence (of which one is led by Charité), 10 Emmy Noether Independent Junior Research Groups, 14 European Research Council grants and 8 European collaborative projects (coordinated by Charité).
Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin
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