Endowed professorship for phlebology Point of contact for domestic and international research projects
On January 16, 2017, Prof. Dr. med. Stefanie Reich-Schupke assumed the professorship for phlebology endowed by Bauerfeind at Ruhr University Bochum. life spoke to the specialist in dermatology and venereology about the important role played by her field, how study results can be compared internationally and how to attract the next generation of phlebologists.
Bauerfeind life: How is phlebology taught at German universities?
Prof. Dr. Reich-Schupke: Phlebology still isn’t a specialism in its own right. Instead, it is a subdiscipline forming part of dermatology, surgery or internal medicine departments, for example. This means that universities generally only spend a few hours teaching it as part of the content on other disciplines. And sometimes it isn’t even covered at all. Most doctors don’t come across phlebological conditions or treatments, such as venous leg ulcers or compression therapy, until they start
working in a hospital.
The main objective of the endowed professorship for phlebology is therefore to raise the external profile of phlebology and provide a point of contact for research and teaching in this field. The position was created to facilitate coordination and networking for domestic and international projects.
Which topics do you wish to establish as key areas of research?
Prof. Dr. Reich-Schupke: One of the two central areas of research will be varicosis. Nowadays, the individual treatment options, such as lasers, radio frequency, compression, surgery and sclerotherapy, virtually compete with one another. The objective is to use clinical studies to develop an algorithm that will enable physicians to choose the ideal treatment method for each patient based on the applicable clinical parameters.
The second central area of research will be compression therapy and its role in treating post-thrombotic syndrome.
How important are medical compression stockings to you as a form of treatment?
Prof. Dr. Reich-Schupke: Compression therapy still plays an important role. From clinical experience, we know that it has a positive effect – in both acute cases, i.e. in terms of reducing edema and pain, and in the medium term in relation to complications and progression. But today everything has to be evidence based, which means more studies are needed even to cement the position of long-established treatments such as compression therapy.
To compound matters, a number of North American studies have been conducted in recent years that cast a shadow of doubt on the value of compression. Here, however, we must remember that results collected in other countries don’t always completely correspond to conditions in the German market.
To enable results to be compared across borders, it is essential for studies to provide a detailed description of the compression stockings used and the method applied.
This means giving information on the following: How much pressure did the stockings apply? Which stockings were used? Did the stockings have a circular or flat knit? How long were the stockings? What instructions were the patients given?
You have been the officer for young scientists for the German Society of Phlebology (DGP) since 2013. How are things looking on this front?
Prof. Dr. Reich-Schupke: Fortunately, the number of young colleagues in the DGP has been growing continuously over the last few years. Without a doubt , this can partly be attributed to the various schemes introduced to train and support young talent. This includes the CME certificate issued by the German Academy for Phlebology Training, the launch of a shadowing program and the training exchange platform on the DGP’s website. A mentoring program for young colleagues interested in phlebology research has been in place since 2015 and a DGP Facebook page was recently set up. We can use these channels to advertise financial support , such as the Bauerfeind Doctoral Program, directly to its target group.
How important are programs like Bauerfeind’s for supporting the next generation of researchers?
Prof. Dr. Reich-Schupke: They are crucial because these days research is virtually impossible without sponsorship. Doctoral students even need a certain amount of financial support to help them with statistics, translations and literature research prior to obtaining the approval of an ethics committee.
You’ve been conducting research in the field of phlebology yourself for more than ten years. What attracts you personally to the topic of phlebology and what hopes do you have for the discipline over the next ten years?
Prof. Dr. Reich-Schupke: Firstly, I’m fascinated by the unbelievably high risk people have of developing a venous disease. Around 20 percent of the population suffer from vein problems in some shape or form. From young children to the elderly, they affect everyone. Both conservative and surgical treatments are available. And there are a lot of elective patients, which makes the specialism especially attractive to women who want to fit their career around family commitments.
Secondly, a lot of research is still needed in this discipline, so much so that the world’s your oyster.
In terms of the future, I definitely want to see phlebology gain wider recognition, including in terms of policies and support. Looking at figures from the German Research Foundation (DFG) alone, funding is most frequently allocated to proposals in the fields of infectious diseases, Parkinson’s disease and dementia. To put it bluntly, venous diseases may affect a large proportion of the population, but they rarely prove fatal. That’s probably why they don’t attract so much interest. It’s high time for that to change!
Image: PD Dr. Stefanie Reich-Schupke