UKE CEO Christian Gerloff: The brainstormer

UKE CEO Christian Gerloff: The brainstormer

Brain imaging specialist Christian Gerloff has taken on the top job as Medical Director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf (UKE). He is keen on shaping the future of one of the most modern hospitals in Europe with more than 14,000 employees. His major aims include driving forward the process of digitalization and the future development of the campus – including AI-based technologies.

What goals is the new UKE director Christian Gerloff pursuing?

Christian Gerloff has put up a huge digital whiteboard right next to his desk in his newly occupied office. “This is a smart brainstorming tool, in front of which you can put heads together or graphically access and shape organizational charts and timelines,” Gerloff says. At the push of a button, all your ideas are saved and can be shared as an image file. “Working that way is attractive to me.”

  • Shaping the future of the dynamic UKE campus,
  • making the University Medical Center attractive for the people who work and study here
  • and making the most of the opportunities offered by digitalization.

These are the primary goals the 59-year-old Gerloff has set himself in his new position as Medical Director of the UKE and Chairman of the Executive Board. As such, he is at the helm of one of the most modern hospitals in Europe with more than 14,000 employees. A hospital that he knows well and whose dynamics he appreciates: Since 2006, Gerloff has been Director of the Department of Neurology and Director of the Head Neurocenter. He is also experienced in the management of the UKE, having been its Vice Medical Director since 2013.

The UKE is driving modern university medicine forward. We are aiming for new frontiers both digitally and structurally.

Prof. Dr. Christian Gerloff
Medical Director of the University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf

Specialist in diagnosis and treatment of strokes

After studying medicine in Freiburg and Vienna, Gerloff initially wanted to become a trauma surgeon, but then became enthusiastic about neurology while doing his doctoral thesis and during his residency at the University Hospital in Tübingen. Gerloff’s career was boosted during his three years as a postdoc at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, where he focused on brain imaging and systems neuroscience: “I particularly appreciated the patient-oriented research there, it was a very productive time,” Gerloff recalls. After several years as a Senior Attending in Tübingen, where he became a specialist in the diagnosis and treatment of strokes, Gerloff joined the UKE in 2006 as a W3-professor, focusing on brain imaging and neurostimulation.

“I am a clinician with heart and soul and enjoy working with patients,” says Gerloff. Since he’s been in Hamburg, he’s been particularly keen to drive forward medical translation. In this regard, he describes the WAKE-UP study as a highlight of his career. In 2018 the results of this large European research consortium revolutionized the treatment of stroke patients with unknown time since symptom onset. “This was super interdisciplinary teamwork and something like winning the champions league in stroke medicine: the international treatment guidelines were changed in a very short time,” Gerloff says.

To this day, he remains fascinated by how dynamic and adaptable the adult brain is. “This plastic potential opens up opportunities for us to explore new therapeutic avenues,” he says. Moreover, we have modern methods that help us understand these complex networks in the brain, he adds.

AI-based early warning system

This is also true for applications of AI. For example, his team recently used 2.5 million data points to train an AI algorithm that can be used as a warning system in intensive care units in the future: By analyzing complex data, the system can detect impending cerebral pressure crises and sound the alarm hours in advance. A demonstrator already exists. In addition to such early warning systems in intensive care, AI assistance systems could also help with suspected diagnoses during initial diagnostics, believes Gerloff. AI could also help optimize workflows and patient pathways in the hospital.

What does the UKE Future Plan 2050 look like?

In the coming months, three large new buildings – the Heart Center, the Martini-Klinik and Research Campus II – will be completed as part of the UKE Future Plan 2050. “Here, it is important to link campus development with the optimization of processes.” Concerning data availability, he points out that it is crucial that ways are found for different healthcare providers to pull together on data flow and data presence. “This is also where we need to find constructive solutions with data privacy regulators,” he says. “In this regard, I would like to see more tailwind,” says the passionate sailor. “The hope is that the digital transformation ushers in a new era that changes the way we do medicine.”

Text: Philipp Graf

Beitragsbild: © Philipp Graf

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