• Prof. Dr. med. Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin

    Prof. Dr med. Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen, Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin

Brain City Ambassador Prof. Dr. med. Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen is one of the most renowned geriatric medicine specialists in Germany. In addition to geriatrics, lipometabolic disorders are the speciality of the Senior professor at Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin; two areas that closely interact scientifically.

The field of research of Prof. Dr. med. Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen is extremely complex. This is because aging has many facets. “Cell aging, theories of aging, the phenomena of human aging, aging at the micro and macro level or aging from phenotype to genotype, age and disease, aging in the context of the influence of psychosocial factors – these are just some of the topics I have dealt with over the years,” says the geriatrics specialist, who has already received several awards for her work and even received the Federal Cross of Merit in 2016 for her scientific and medical achievements in the field of geriatric medicine.

The field of lipid metabolism disorders is another research focus of the Brain City Ambassador. “Here, my particular interest lies in genetic diseases, such as ‘familial hypercholesterolemia’ (FH) and a number of rare, also monogenetic diseases.” Prevention, especially with regard to cardiovascular diseases and the approach of individualising medical therapies for older people, are the main drivers of her work. For example, Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen was actively involved in the “Berlin Age Study” (BASE or BASE II) running from 1989 to 2015 and its follow-up project GendAge. The long-term study examined people aged 70 to 100 in a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary manner with regard to their mental and physical health, their intellectual performance, their mental state and their social and economic situation.

The renowned doctor also deals with the beginning of life as part of her research. “My clinical work as Chief physician, Chair for geriatric medicine and Head of the university outpatient clinic ‘Lipidambulanz’ at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin have shaped me in such a way that my commitment today is strongly focused on the prevention of cardiovascular diseases,” explains Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen. “This includes the timely detection of risk factors using modern methods such as risk assessment (Poligenetic Risk Scores), and also newborn screening.”

Berlin is a highly interesting science location. This is particularly important to me because I attach great importance to multi-professionalism.

Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen first went to the University Hospital Eppendorf (UKE) in Hamburg, where she worked as a research assistant in internal medicine and also completed her habilitation. She came to Berlin in 1987. She accepted the call to the C3 position of the Geriatric Centre of the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin, Campus Virchow (then still Freie Universität Berlin) and at the same time became Head of the lipid outpatient clinic & lipid apheresis, nutritional medicine and dietetics in the interdisciplinary metabolism centre of the Charité. In 1997, she was appointed to a C4 professorship in the field of internal medicine/geriatrics at Charité and appointed Head of the geriatrics research group. From 1995 to 2014 Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen was also Medical director and Managing director of the Evangelical Geriatric Centre Berlin and from 1996 to 2014 Head of the Senior Citizens’ University of Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin. An impressive CV.

The geriatrician is now in partial retirement. However, she still works a lot in Berlin and likes to, because the city is a “highly interesting science location” for her. “This is particularly important to me because I attach great importance to multi-professionalism. I am convinced that only multidisciplinarity will help us to advance, for example, in questions of ageing and in the implementation of prevention projects,” explains Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen. “There are many scientific institutions in this city and the networking opportunities are huge!”

The scientist is also fascinated by the cultural diversity of the city: “Berlin is characterised by many start-ups, a rich art scene and a wide variety of music offers. Berlin is a uniquely colourful location as far as cultural life is concerned.” And in Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen’s experience, the city has yet another advantage: “Compared to other cities, I have experienced Berlin as a doctor, researcher and mother as very ‘woman-friendly’ and ‘child-friendly’ – and that has been since I arrived here in the 1980s.”

Elisabeth Steinhagen-Thiessen’s advice for young scientists in Berlin is of a more general nature: “The Berlin science scene has a very open community. It is therefore well worth approaching other people with curiosity and being interested in them and their work.” If you are communicative and reliable yourself, you will automatically build up a network in Brain City Berlin. However, as the extremely well-connected scientist herself emphasises, this always needs to be well looked after!

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