Prof. Dr. Michael Hallek
Professor Hallek, you are the founder and director of the CIO, Center for Integrated Oncology at the University Hospital of Cologne. What is the cooperation between the University Hospital and the CIO like?
The CIO is part of the University Hospital. Our center bundles all activities of cancer care in the University Hospital. We have 40 different clinics, center or institutes, such as pathology, radiology, internal medicine, which treat or diagnose cancer patients. The aim of the CIO is to bring specialists together in one place so that it is easier for patients to find everything they need.
In summer, a separate CIO building is opening in the middle of the university hospital campus. What’s going to happen there?
We have an interdisciplinary approach to our work that involves all the cancer patients. The new building provides the architectural prerequisite for this. We should not underestimate the creative power of architecture. Working together in a single building, in rooms that encourage interaction, means that you meet ten times more often than you would normally in everyday life. The aim is to integrate specialists by architecture!
Why is networking so important today?
During the last ten years, there has been an explosion of knowledge in cancer research. To provide patients with the optimal treatment, you need to build networks and teams. The way we work has changed completely. To meet today´s needs, we need to built new structures for permanent networking. The CIO building provides a solution for successfully networked working structures.
You want to put an end of competitive thinking and have founded a joint cancer centre with the university hospitals of Aachen, Bonn and Düsseldorf. How does this benefit cancer patients?
Because we work with limited resources, we focus in our research in order to make it as efficient as possible. The same applies for our colleagues in Aachen, Bonn and Düsseldorf. By working together, we complement each other and benefit from increased research capacities. If a doctor in Aachen is doing research on one disease we do not focus on in Cologne, our patient benefits directly from knowledge gained in Aachen. Joint clinical studies also help to drive progress. By collecting and evaluating our joint data, we also enhance research. The individual patient will see the benefit from this.
During the last 15 years, Cologne has grown into one of the top locations for oncology in Germany. How did this happen?
We have an excellent Executive Board at the hospital that has ensured a stable financial situation. Plus, we have created an atmosphere of trust. Like financial success, this is a basic prerequisite for research and doing good medicine. Secondly, state government has provided us with a lot of support and helped create the right conditions. Thirdly, you also need creative minds. In Cologne, we have appointed a lot of good scientists and clinicians, people who cooperate well together.
You studied and did research in Regensburg, Munich, Paris and in the States. Before you moved to University Hospital of Cologne, you were offered a professorship in Munich. What’s it like being a Bavarian in Cologne?
Great! I miss the countryside and the mountains a bit. But as far as human interaction is concerned, which is an essential part of life, my family and I feel really at home in Cologne. I’ve been welcomed very warmly. The locals are a very open minded and communicative, which makes everyday life very pleasant indeed.