At present I’m academic chair for palliative care at the university of Bern, Switzerland and head of the centre for palliative care at the university hospital in Bern. Specialized in internal medicine with clinical training in surgery, gynecology/ obstetrics, emergency medicine and in family medicine, the doors towards palliative care opened through psychosomatics and psychotherapy where I subspecialized in the late nineties.
Increasingly and while meeting patients and family carers, my main interest was the question: who is this person. Clinical training in psychosomatics provided an important framework for putting the person and not the medical diagnosis in the centre: a deeper understanding and implementation of George Engel’s biopsychosocial concept, and practical skills how to reduce suffering – by interprofessional cooperation and search for increasing self- efficacy; the daily use of the salutogenic model of health. Role models such as Thure von Uexküll, founder of the German psychosomatic medicine, and Rolf Adler, his Swiss follower played an important role as mentors.
In the late nineties, Palliative Care was not very popular in Switzerland. It was by accident that I was appointed consultant for palliative care in Bern and later in St.Gallen. I travelled a lot to learn from international specialists: John Ellershaw in Liverpool, Norelle Lickiss and Paul Glare in Sydney, Linda Kristjanson and Samar Aoun in Perth, José Pereira in Ottawa. During this time, my interest for professional educational strategies grew. I finished a master in medical education (MME).
We succeeded to make end of life and palliative care become a hot topic in Switzerland as part of the public debate on self- determination and physician assisted suicide. As Co – and Vice- President of our national association palliative ch, the Swiss national strategy for palliative care forced us as passionate clinicians to think and act in a more political way. Active involvement of the broad public and how to create a common vision and new image of ending our life in dignity, became my passion. Challenging our values and relationships through the fact of human finiteness changed my focus: from medical reasoning to societal change and human relationship as key.
I can learn such lessons every day while dealing with the end of life: how fortunate I am to be part of a wonderful family, healthy and curious, with three children aging from 11 to 17 years, and together with my wife, a gynaecologist and obstetrician, dealing with the beginning of life….
Over the past years, I was active in EAPC as a member of the education group as well as of the primary palliative care taskforce. In addition, I was head of the local organizing committee of the EAPC 10th world research congress in Bern in May 2018 – and we were proud to bring together people from 60 countries. I love to network, to think strategically and to act pragmatic. Education, public and political involvement including global responsibility as well as interprofessional primary palliative care are my topics – all based on participation and a common vision of compassion and a high societal value of the end of life. I would love to contribute as member of the EAPC board.