How have the professional experiences in the USA, Switzerland, Germany, and the UK, shaped your career?
I have worked in the United States, in Switzerland, Germany and the UK and also in other parts of the world. To define the experience in all these countries would require at least an entire evening of talking. A few remarks, however, may be appropriate.
I think it was a good decision that I started my clinical career in the United States, where I was given responsibility very early during my apprenticeship. I was allowed to do arterial cutdowns for coronary angiography after a very brief introduction. This helped me a lot in becoming proficient. I am still impressed by the sheer power and organisation of the American system, which may, on the other hand, leave lesser room for true inventions.
When I arrived in Switzerland, the focus shifted to much more basic science, the more clinical parts were the privilege of the more senior staff. That was a character building experience. I am sure it has not too much to do with a country-specific approach but rather with the particular institution.
Switzerland is spoiled: there are no waiting lists, every one can choose their doctor and will get the medication they need. In general, the health system is quite elaborate, but – as in all countries around the world – too expensive for its citizens.
In Germany, I happened to be very much on my own again and had extensive responsibilities in setting up an invasive and later an interventional programme.
The health system is sound, less luxurious than Switzerland, and quite thoroughly organised.
When it comes to the UK it was the friendly and supportive atmosphere that struck me most. At the National Heart, and then at the Royal Brompton Hospital, Tony Rickards and I formed a great team with no animosity and a great deal of mutual support. The other colleagues – surgeons, radiologists, paediatric cardiologists, etc – were always there to discuss problems and potential solutions and I felt greatly encouraged in pursuing my path. The academic atmosphere shines through into most aspects of medicine and gives it a unique and particular halo. The system is lean, but over-administrated in my mind, and would do better with less bureaucracy.
I have spent a fantastic life as a “nomad” crossing frontiers all the time, and I must admit that I learned enormously during all those movements.
What are your current areas of research?
I retired from my academic career in October 2006, which was a turning point regarding proper research. I am still actively involved in cardiology but I am more interested in observing what the younger cardiologists are doing. I still give lectures, help people in different countries doing interventions and am involved in a number of projects regarding technology. On the other hand, proper, structured research is no longer my thing.
What advice would you give to young cardiologists?
The advice I would give to young cardiologists is the advice I would give to every young person: Do what you are fascinated about. Doing medicine for financial gain is bound to fail in the end. Doing cardiology because it is great fun and to help patients is most satisfactory. This is what they should aim for.
Outside of medicine, what other interests do you have?
Medicine has been my life from the end of high school. This is why it is difficult to leave it behind. That is also why I carry on seeing patients and doing interventions. On the other hand, I have a number of activities outside medicine that I find fascinating. I have been interested in flying for all my life, in skiing in wintertime and spending time with my family.
When you become a grandfather it is most rewarding to spend time with the youngsters either biking or hiking or doing sports together. I have the great fortune of being married to an overwhelmingly stimulating wife, who encouraged me to do all kinds of interesting tasks, for more than 40 years. We have set up a charity called Jonasfoundation for children in difficult situations, who are being taught music and arts in a number of different countries. My wife and I sing together in a choir in the mountains, and when things are too quiet I take my trumpet out of its case!
Emeritus chairman of Cardiology, University of Geneva, Geneva, Switzerland
July 1967 Medical degree, University of Münster
1967–1968 Internship, Medicine, Surgery, Gyn & Obstetrics, Community Hospital Lörrach
October 1967 Dr med, University of Freiburg (magna cum laude)
1968–1971 Residency, Boston VA Hospital, Framingham Union Hospital
1971–1972 Fellowship, Cardiology, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, USA
1972–1973 Training, Cardiology, University Hospital, Zürich
October 1978 Dr med habil, University of Düsseldorf
February 1985 Professor Dr med habil, University of Düsseldorf
2002–2006 Chief of Cardiology, University of Geneva
1989–2001 Director, Dept of Invasive Cardiology, Royal Brompton Hospital, London
1979–1989 Medecin associé, then ajoint, University Hospital, Lausanne
1973–1979 Chief of Cath Lab, Gollwitzer Meier Institute, Bad Oeynhausen
- Royal Brompton Hospital, London
- The Heart Hospital, London
- Harley Street Clinic, London
- Humana Wellington Hospital, London
- Cromwell Hospital, London
- Clinique de Genolier, Genolier, Switzerland
- Clinique La Source, Lausanne, Switzerland
- Centre Cardiothoracique de Monaco
- Professor and chair of Cardiology Emeritus, University of Geneva
- Professor of Medicine, University of Düsseldorf
- Associate professor of Cardiology, University of Lausanne (until 1989)
- Recognised teacher, Imperial College of Medicine, London
- CIRSE Award Winner 1987
- ESC Grüntzig Award 1996
- Doctor honoris causa, University of Lausanne 1999
- King Faisal International Prize for Medicine 2004
- European Academy of Science Prize 2006
- ACC Maseri-Florio Award 2007