Annual Report 2011


Dear SMPA members, dear friends of the SMPA,


It looks like the SMPA survived the 7th year since its initial foundation without a hick – indeed, “the seven year itch” – or “das verflixte 7. Jahr” as it is known in German did not leave a negative mark. On the contrary, the Swiss MD-PhD Association continues to grow in what is now the eighth year since its foundation, currently boasting 155 members from all over Switzerland!


After a very successful meeting and General Assembly in Geneva in 2010, organized by Pierre Mégevand, dealing with the Bologna Reform and in the afternoon session the topic of career options for physicians in research and industry, this year’s meeting once again moves into the “heart of Switzerland” (at least as far as accessibility from the west and the east of the country is concerned), namely Bern…

Since the last General Assembly in Bern 2008, the new Artificial Organ (ARTORG) Center for Biomedical Engineering Research of the University of Bern was founded. This platform was established to push forward research in the field of medical technology in a close collaborative effort between the University Hospital (Inselspital) and the University of Bern. The idea of closely linking clinicians who, on an almost daily basis, identify problems in the everyday medical praxis within the hospital with engineers and biologists, physicists and other scientists who are prepared to work together in a team to solve such problems, is a very applaudable project. Indeed, an institution like the ARTORG center suggests that bridges can and are being built between the everyday of the clinics and basic research, bedside and bench. This would seem like an ideal “breeding ground” for persons interested in both sides of the story – MD-PhDs for instance… The General Assembly 2011 therefore will rather appropriately explore the topic of artificial organs in the scientific meeting entitled “Artificial Organs: Fact or Fiction?”. For the meeting taking place on Friday the 14th of October the SMPA has once more been able to recruit excellent speakers from all over Switzerland – something the SMPA has been lucky enough to be able to do since its very early days.


One important and necessary change for the SMPA, as announced last year, was the complete restructuring of the website. After years of work and input by former founder David Andel, the new site was entirely re-vamped and is now being managed by Hannes Bärtschi, a close friend of the SMPA. Using the old website as a scaffold, the “facelifted” website, which was received with a lot of praise, not only allows for very easy management and updating but has also greatly simplified membership management and keeping in contact with and informing all SMPA members. In comparison with websites of similar institutions in Europe and the States, the SMPA holds its own ground. In the trend towards improving communication, within Switzerland and amongst all members in general, the SMPA may consider following the trend set by other MD-PhD associations to establish a profile in Facebook and/or the professional network linkedIn. Whether or not a planned regular newsletter will be born in the coming year 2012 will more likely than not depend on the capacity of the board members to once more juggle SMPA matters and full time work. New members – and in that sense of course in particular active new members are therefore always more than welcome to make their voices be heard and to “dig in” the daily work that makes up this flourishing and growing society that the SMPA has become.


Topic of last year’s General Assembly was, as mentioned, the Bologna Reform. As a summary of the meeting and starting point for discussion, the SMPA published an article in the Swiss Medical Journal (Schweizerische Ärztezeitung / Bulletin des médecins suisses, see entitled “Bologna reform and career opportunities”, discussing the options that may have newly arisen because of implementation of the Bologna reform in medical graduate school, unlike most neighbouring countries. However, Switzerland may soon lose its leading position and will not be able to defend its exemplary role within Europe, if the reforms that have taken place during medical graduate school will not be followed suit by reforms in post-graduate training. In the coming year the SMPA will therefore once more be obliged to tackle the problem of accreditation of at least one year of (MD-PhD) research within the various FMH curricula. Despite this being something our predecessors already spent days and weeks of hard work on, heated discussions and blood and sweat, achieving a positive response from many of the FMH subspecialties, it is with dismay and alarm that the SMPA notes that many curricula have – once more – omitted a period of research as an option in acquiring a specialist title. Surely it is not only in the interests of physician-scientists, but also of research-interested physicians in general that through accepting research as part of specialist curricula Switzerland will encourage more physicians to take up research in order to remain competitive herein on an international level in the future.


There has been no sign of competitiveness but rather continued amicability between sister organizations, in particular the American Physician Scientists Association (APSA, as well as the French MD-PhD Association ( David Winkler, former president and founder, attended the yearly meeting of the French society in Paris early November 2011, on behalf of the board, representing and presenting the SMPA to our French colleagues. I herewith would like to thank David in the name of the board and all members, for his continued support of the SMPA, despite no longer being an active board member. 2012 may see a first combined European MD-PhD meeting being organized in London – perhaps an opportunity also for the SMPA to take part in and expand its ties to other MD-PhD networks. Also, the SMPA looks forward to continuing its close collaboration with the Swiss Academy of Medical Sciences (SAMS), in particular Dr. Katrin Crameri, and appreciates the continuing support of Prof. Peter Meier-Abt, president of the SAMS. In 2012 the next Scientific Meeting of the Swiss national MD-PhD Programme will once more be organized by the SAMS. In what way the SMPA may contribute to this meeting has not yet been decided upon. However, it does appear that not all things are static… In that sense I would like to end this annual report and wish all SMPA members and friends a dynamic, exciting and memorable coming year ahead!



In the name of the SMPA,

Yara Banz

Bern, October 2011

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