Press releases – February 2019

 

Feb 28 2019
15:09

The general practitioner receives € 10,000 Public Fellowship Award for his work mediating between medicine, politics, and society as a whole 

Award for “bridge builder” Professor Ferdinand Gerlach

FRANKFURT. Professor Ferdinand Gerlach, Director of the Institute of General Practice at Goethe University, has received the Alfons and Gertrude Kassel Foundation's Public Service Fellowship Award for his outstanding work as long-standing chair of the German Council of Health Advisors. Every two years, the award, which includes a cash prize of € 10,000, is presented to Goethe University professors that are also active members of influential scientific or political organisations. The award money is to be invested in realising and facilitating projects and assignments that the special commitments of the award-winners prevent from finding the time to work on themselves. 

Professor Gerlach has been committed to improving health care services in Germany for many years. At the award ceremony on 25th February, University President Birgitta Wolf thanked him for providing high-quality science-based political consulting services in an era of “fake news". This also supports one of the university's central objectives: to improve society through the results of its research. Vice President Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz described Gerlach as Goethe University's “model professor" and the “most important general practitioner in Germany". 

In his speech at the award ceremony, Professor Christoph Straub, Chairman of the Board of the BARMER health insurer, praised Gerlach's long-time commitment to continuous quality improvement and the employment of evidence-based medicine in medical practice. As early as 1993, Gerlach developed ideas to improve the medical quality assurance process, and implemented quality compasses for family practitioners. In 2004, he devised the internet platform “Every-Mistake-Counts," which enables general practices to anonymously report mistakes that others can learn from. 

Ferdinand Gerlach was an early advocate of evidence-based medicine. He initiated the development of guidelines for general practice, a concept subsequently adopted in other medical fields. His areas of focus also include epidemiology in public health practice, digitalisation in the health sector, patient safety, healthcare for the chronically ill, and health services research. He has established three additional chairs for these special fields at the Institute of General Practice, as well as an endowed chair for polypharmacy and health services research from 1st March. 

With his appointment as chair of the German Council of Health Advisors, Gerlach went from being “the first family physician in the country to generalist and navigator of the health care sector," said Straub. With his affable, thoughtful and unassuming demeanour, he is the “gentleman of political consulting," yet he can also be tough and assertive, particularly when it concerns the accurate presentation of scientific issues. While this does not always make working with him easy, it is a successful formula. For example, the German government has only recently adopted many of the Council's recommendations on emergency care. 

Gerlach has also worked in various way to improve teaching and education in his field. His project “Landpartie" (country outing) encourages students to complete the practical part of their medical studies in rural practices, and thus helps to tackle the prevailing shortage of doctors in rural regions. He further organised a high-calibre lecture series to raise student awareness of diagnostic and therapeutic overtreatment, at which Eckhard von Hirschhausen spoke about the healing power of humour. 

Brief Vita
Professor Ferdinand M. Gerlach, MPH, studied human medicine in Göttingen and received his doctorate in 1987. He concluded his specialty training in general practice in 1992, and completed a post-graduate degree in Public Health with a focus on “Management in the Health Sector" at the Medical University in Hanover at the same time. Before his appointment to Goethe University in 2004, he was Professor of General Practice at the University of Kiel. In addition to various positions in national and international committees and organisations, he was president of the DEGAM (German College of General Practitioners and Family Physicians) from 2010 to 2016.

Numerous scientific awards attest to his excellent work. These include the Hessen Higher Education Prize for Excellence in Teaching) (2017), Award of the Saxony Society for General Practice (2017), German Research Award for General Practice (2008), Richard Merten Award for Quality Assurance in the Health Sector (2005), Berlin Health Award (2002), German Health Award for 'Innovation in the Health Sector' (1999) and the Health Sciences Award (1994). 

Further information: Professor Ferdinand Gerlach, Master of Public Health, Institute of General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel. (069) 6301-5687, gerlach@allgemeinmedizin.uni-frankfurt.de

An image may be downloaded here: www.uni-frankfurt.de/76519146
Caption: University President Professor Birgitta Wolff, Professor Ferdinand Gerlach und his wife, Professor Heike Schnoor, Award ceremony speaker Professor Christoph Straub. Credit: Benjamin André

 

Feb 28 2019
09:00

European Commission signs CyberSec4Europe Grant Agreement

Goethe University co-ordinates mega-project on cybersecurity and data protection

FRANKFURT/BRUSSELS. An extensive research project on cybersecurity and data protection in Europe will be launched this week. Goethe University Frankfurt has assumed the leadership and co-ordination of the 43 total consortium partners from science, business, industry and society. 

With a total grant amount of € 16 million, 'mega' is hardly an exaggerated designation for the project “CyberSec4Europe". The European Commission desires to set international standards in cybersecurity and boost the effectiveness of Europe's security capacities. The goal of the new “Horizon 2020" programme's initiative is to establish and operate a cybersecurity competence network and develop a strategy for cybersecurity and data protection as European branches (industries). The Commission selected a total of four projects for the pilot, of which “CyberSec4Europe", co-ordinated by business informatics expert Professor Kai Rannenberg from Goethe University in Frankfurt, comprises the most EU member states, and is concerned with domains that are relevant to every EU citizen such as banking, healthcare, identity management and smart cities. 

“A flagship project like this is of great significance for Goethe University," comments University President Professor Birgitta Wolff with regard to the noteworthy achievement. “We have great expertise in matters of information security and data protection. It is wonderful that this now enables us to make a contribution within the European context." “Our main tasks are the strategic coordination and organisation of the project," explains Professor Kai Rannenberg, who holds the Chair for Mobile Business and Multilateral Security at Goethe University and who conceived this project. He will co-ordinate the consortium from Frankfurt. Staff has been and will continue to be recruited for the project, as the funding applies retroactively to 1st February 2019. 

CyberSec4Europe's official two-day kick-off event starts on 28 February in Brussels. During the course of a public event on the evening of the first day, attendees will hear a panel of distinguished speakers representing stakeholder organisations expressing their expectations from the Cybersecurity Competence Network Centre pilot projects. The focus will be on cybersecurity and data protection in the economy, infrastructures, society and democracy. 

CyberSec4Europe will build on existing structures such as “Trust in Digital Life" (TDL), the European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO) and the Council of European Informatics Societies (CEPIS), and brings experts together from various disciplines. The 43 consortium partners from 20 European Union countries, as well as from Norway and Switzerland, include research establishments from enterprises such as Siemens or ATOS in addition to universities and research institutes. Within the next 42 months they will all collaborate to strengthen the research and innovation competence of the EU in cybersecurity. 

The question of “governance" is of primary concern: How can data protection be regulated, who has authority in which areas? Seven key demonstration cases will be investigated to ensure a close connection to real-world situations. “We want to use these real-life examples to investigate where structures, regulations and technology are lacking," says Professor Rannenberg, Lead Co-ordinator of the consortium. The Payment Service Directive 2 (PSD2) is one example. PSD2 is intended to make the switch to a new financial service provider easier for customers by enabling the new provider to access the necessary bank data through interfaces. But what can be done to protect customer data from unauthorised access? 

The Faculty of Law at Goethe University Frankfurt is also involved in the project in the person of data protection expert Professor Indra Spiecker. She heads the central subproject on the development of a European cybersecurity governance. “We will take up pertinent citizen-friendly regulations such as the European Data Protection Regulation and examine their implementation and management, applying what we learn to cybersecurity," says Spiecker. 

The € 16 million will be distributed to the consortium partners from the central location of Goethe University. Approximately € 2 million will remain at Goethe University. 

Further information: Professor Kai Rannenberg, Chair for Mobile Business & Multilateral Security, Faculty of Economics and Business Administration, Westend Campus, Tel +49 (0)69 798-34701, E-Mail: CyberSec4Europe@m-chair.de

 

Feb 26 2019
13:43

New endowed chair for polypharmacy and health services research at Goethe University 

Medications: As many as needed, as few as possible!

FRANKFURT. A third of all patients in general practice suffer from multiple diseases. These patients are usually treated by various medical specialists who often do not adequately coordinate their prescriptions. The mixture of pills may not only have serious side effects; it also strains and unsettles many patients. The appointment of Professor Marjan van den Akker as new “Endowed Chair for Polypharmacy and Health Services Research" at Goethe University's Institute of General Practice should help to improve this situation.

Marjan van den Akker worked at the Maastricht University (Netherlands) and is an internationally recognised expert in the field of multimorbidity and polypharmacy. From 1st March, she will start projects to enhance medication prescriptions to patients with multimorbidity (co-occurring diseases) in cooperation with doctors, pharmacists, scientists and nurse practitioners. The chair has been endowed for a period of six years by INSIGHT Health, a company that specialises in the analysis of medical prescriptions. 

“Older patients in particular, but younger patients as well, are affected by multimorbidity. They usually have a complex health situation that can be quite challenging for doctors," says Professor van den Akker. Her research focuses on frequent disease combinations and their medical treatment. She wants to improve the care for these patients by the further development and evaluation of interventions. 

Previous studies have shown that for many patients with multimorbidity, overall prescriptions can be improved either by reducing medications, or sometimes by prescribing additional medication. “It's important to me to take the preferences and living circumstances of the patients into account. The benefits and risks of medication need to be discussed with their doctor, and a decision then reached together." 

In view of the frequency and complexity of polypharmacy, Professor van den Akker desires to educate both medical and pharmaceutical students in caring for this patient group. She plans to set up an interdisciplinary teaching programme offering joint classes for future doctors and future pharmacists. 

Prof. Ferdinand Gerlach, Director of the Institute of General Practice, is happy with the new chair. “The new endowed chair is a perfect fit for our research profile in Frankfurt. With Professor van Akker, we can develop new paths for improving health care for the chronically ill and support general practitioners in their important work even better." 

Professor Pfeilschifter, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine, adds: “Medication research and medication therapy are a focal point of the Faculty of Medicine and of Goethe University overall. As such Professor van den Akker is an excellent choice and she complements the dynamic field of Medicine at Goethe University."

Further information: Prof. Dr. Marjan van den Akker, Institute of General Practice, Campus Niederrad, Tel.: +49 69 6301-80454/-5930; m.vandenAkker@allgemeinmedizin.uni-frankfurt.de


 

Feb 18 2019
09:57

German-Israeli conference discusses the work of the Frankfurt philosopher Franz Rosenzweig

One hundred years since “Star of Redemption“ 

FRANKFURT. On 16th February 1919, Franz Rosenzweig completed his book “The Star of Redemption." In commemoration of this event, a large conference entitled “Back to Redemption: Franz Rosenzweig's Star 1919-2019" is taking place in Jerusalem from 17 – 20 February 2019. The Martin-Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Philosophy at Goethe University in Frankfurt is one of the main organizers of the conference.


Franz Louis August Rosenzweig, born in Kassel in 1886, was the only child of a Jewish industrialist and city politician and his wife. He began studying medicine in 1905, before switching to a study of history and philosophy. His dissertation represents the first comprehensive critical analysis of Hegel's political philosophy. In 1913, Rosenzweig grappled intensively with the question of whether to convert to Christianity, but decided against it in the end and dedicated himself to a concentrated study of Judaism. During World War I, he volunteered for medical service and was later with the artillery at the front in the Balkans – a formative experience. After the war, Rosenzweig turned his back on his historical studies and dedicated himself completely to establishing the House of Jewish Learning in Frankfurt am Main, whose goal was to demonstrate ways of Jewish life in the modern world. Rosenzweig's book “Star of Redemption" was published in 1921. Already plagued by serious illness, Rosenzweig began a translation of the Jewish scriptures together with Martin Buber – a work whose expressive language remains fascinating to this day. Franz Rosenzweig died when he was only 43 years old in 1926. 

“The Star of Redemption“ is considered a fundamental work of Jewish thinking in the 20th Century. The conference, organized by the Martin-Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Philosophy along with the International Rosenzweig Society e.V. and the Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, will discuss “redemption" in light of Rosenzweig's work. Approximately 100 researchers in history, philosophy and political science from Europe, Asia, North and Latin America will meet in Jerusalem to discuss the “Star"'s central concept of redemption and its significance for understand Judaism as well as its general relevance today. In addition to the historical, theological and historical-philosophical aspects, the interreligious dimension of the question of redemption in Judaism, Christianity and Islam will play a central role. 

The lectures will not only concern themselves with the reconstruction and interpretation of Rosenzweig's concepts, but also with the question of how Rosenzweig's ideas have affected other philosophies and theologies, the relationship between messianism and politics, individual and collective redemption, and also with aesthetic aspects – for example in music. “What makes this conference unique is that world's need for redemption, which in addition to the Jewish perspective is relevant for Christian, Muslim and secular viewpoints, can be reflected in all its diversity in the mirror of Rosenzweig's thought," says Christian Wiese, who currently holds the Martin Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Religion, and is deputy chair of the International Rosenzweig Society. 

The conference continues a longstanding, fruitful collaboration between the Martin Buber Chair and Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Research Center, a collaboration that is of great importance within the humanities. “The importance of the heritage of the early 20th Century German-Jewish culture as embodied by Rosenzweig being publically remembered in today's Israel as a product close German-Israeli cooperation can hardly be exaggerated," says Wiese. Equally significant is the symbolic importance of Jerusalem as event location. More than anyone else in the pre-Nazi era, Rosenzweig reflected on the relationship between German and Jewish culture, between Judaism and Christianity, and the tensions of a Jewish identity caught between exile and nation. To discuss the impulses of his thought in Jerusalem today is decisive with regard to the current Christian-Jewish and German-Israel dialogue. 

The strong interest from a younger generation of researchers makes clear that Rosenzweig's thinking is still relevant: a workshop for early-career researchers in Jewish religious philosophy financed by the Minerva Foundation is incorporated in the conference, and the speakers also largely belong to the younger international generation in this field of research, including several doctoral candidates and postdocs from Goethe University. Never have so many doctoral candidates and young postdocs actively taken part in a Rosenzweig conference: in total, 18 doctoral candidates and at least 22 postdocs will present research results in Jerusalem. 

The conference is also part of a more extensive research strategy focusing on Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig. The Martin Buber Chair and Franz Rosenzweig Minerva Center will also organize a joint conference on Buber's political thought to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of the Buber Chair. 

Further Information: Professor Christian Wiese, Martin-Buber Chair for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, E-Mail: c.wiese@em.uni-frankfurt.de 

The programme can be found at this link. ttps://www.uni-frankfurt.de/76297689/buber_Rosenzweig_programm.pdf

 

Feb 13 2019
11:52

Males are extremely faithful to their mates

Choosy Amphipods

FRANKFURT. Amphipods of the species Gammarus roeselii guard their chosen mates, often carrying them with them for days and defending them against potential rivals. This behaviour requires a lot of time and energy, so that the males make their choice with care. Scientists at Goethe University have now investigated under which circumstances males are prepared to revise their decision. 

In their study, Carolin Sommer-Trembo, Konrad Lipkowski and their two colleagues compare the behaviour of Gammarus males from two populations with very different densities. They collected test animals from two neighbouring areas and let them acclimate for a few days in large aquariums. During this time, pairs formed, with the males firmly grasping the female and not letting her go before fertilization (amplectant pair). 

In the next step, the amplectant pairs were carefully separated from one another, and each male was offered another (morphologically similar) female, one they had not previously selected of their own accord. The males from the populations with a very low density grasped the female within a short period. As expected, they were not particularly choosy, since they seldom encountered females in their natural environment and therefore had to seize the opportunity immediately. 

The males from the population consisting of many individuals spent a significantly longer period searching through their small test basin for an alternative (hopefully better) female, before accepting the female selected by the researchers. “Often, an amplectant pair didn't even come about," Carolin Sommer reports. “If, after separation, we returned the female the male itself had selected, the male accepted it just as quickly as the males from the other population accepted a new female." 

The amphipods, which are only millimetres-long, are therefore definitely choosy, with the degree of choosiness depending on the population density in their natural environments. “The population density has enormous influence on whether the male can afford to take a closer look at his mate," concludes Konrad Lipkowski. 

Publication: Lipkowski K, Plath M, Klaus S, Sommer-Trembo C. Population density affects male mate choosiness and morphology in the mate-guarding amphipod Gammarus roeselii (Crustacea: Amphipoda). Biological Journal of the Linnéan Society, https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/biolinnean/bly201 

An image may be downloaded at: www.uni-frankfurt.de/76164186 

Caption: The male amphipod (above) latches onto the smaller female (below) for up to several days and defends her against rivals. The picture shows an amplectant pair belonging to the species Gammarus sp. Credit: Konrad Lipkowski 

Further information

Konrad Lipkowski, Institute for Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Faculty of Biosciences, Riedberg Campus, Tel.: +49 (69) 798- 42211, lipkowski@bio.uni-frankfurt.de

Dr. Carolin Sommer-Trembo, Zoological Institute, University of Basel, +41 (0) 61 207 59 05, sommer-trembo@gmx.de