Over the past four years, it has been a great honour and pleasure for me to serve the EAPC as a board member and Vice-President. Since 2015 – besides these roles in the EAPC – I also had the chance to chair the Scientific Committee of EAPC World Congress in 2017 in Madrid, which was a once-in-a-lifetime experience for me. In case I would be re-elected to the board again I would stand for President. Following the bye-laws, the President of the EAPC is not elected by the associates, but by members of the board.
The years since 2015 have brought changes for our association. I humbly look back at what the pioneers of the EAPC have built up over the past 30 years. However, to sustain these essential achievements, and to ensure that the EAPC stays globally a major voice of all palliative care professionals, the EAPC had and still has to be developed further. A major change was the move to the heart of Europe: Brussels! In addition, some structural adjustments – e.g. the new website, new working groups, cooperation within the EAPC – had to be made to assure the future of the association. Hence, in a changing world more challenges are still ahead of us all.
In the coming years we have to increase the number of, and internal communication with, individual and institutional members. We should intensively foster the exchange with other global/international hospice and palliative care associations to learn from and with them. Our common goal is to further integrate palliative care into all healthcare systems, and thus to relieve multidimensional suffering associated with life-threatening illness for all in need.
As a young anaesthesiologist, I had the opportunity to work for a year at a small palliative care unit in Bonn. From day one, I was infected by the virus! Many of the people (physicians, nurses, social workers, pastoral carers, volunteers) I met in those – for me personally, highly important – years have become close friends. Without them I would not be doing what I am doing today. In the wake of the early pioneers, it was a tremendous experience to be part of a successful effort to move a new idea forward. Back then, I had the enormous luck to be in the right place at the right time. Professor Eberhard Klaschik – one of the early national pioneers – was appointed as the first Chair of Palliative Care in Germany and I suddenly had the chance to start an unexpected and primarily unintended academic career in our field. Later, I joined Professor Raymond Voltz’s team as a senior consultant at the University of Cologne. In 2010, I was appointed as Professor of Palliative Medicine at the University of Erlangen, Bavaria.
I am happy that in my current job I am still able to do all the things that attracted me to this particular field of work: work clinically, teach students and do research in palliative care. Here, my core area is health service research focusing on informal caregivers, tool development, as well as ethical issues in end-of-life care, and currently work on palliative sedation.
For the rest of the day, I try to share as much time as possible with my family. I am a periodic bookworm, bad mountain biker and passive music enthusiast. Apart from that, I support the soccer team of Borussia Mönchengladbach; so far this year they have made me very content, e.g. by beating Bayern München three nil!