During the Young Stroke Physicians and Researchers (YSPR) session at ESO 2021 virtual conference, four early career stroke physicians and researchers will present their planned or ongoing projects and receive feedback from two renowned stroke experts.

The session took place on Wednesday 1st September at 08.30 in Hall A and will be avaliable to watch on demand via the ESOC platform until 3 December 2021.

In this series of interviews, we are going to meet them and hear about their stories.

Today we are meeting with Alexander Salerno

Alexander is a neurology trainee and PhD candidate in Switzerland land and he is going to present “Data-driven machine learning analysis to develop outcome prediction tools in patients undergoing thrombectomy for posterior circulation acute ischemic stroke: rationale and study-design”. Please stay tuned!

Tell us something about yourself.

I obtained my degree in Medicine at the University of Genoa in Italy in 2016. During my university studies I also completed the prestigious Biomedical Excellence Programme at the Institute of Superior Studies of the University of Genoa (ISSUGE). Also, with the added experience received after a research stay at the Medizinische Hochschule Hannover (MHH), which focus their research on peripheral nerve regeneration under the guidance of Prof. Kirsten Haastert-Talini, I achieved the certification for my research training programme in Neurology at the University of Genoa in 2016 under the guidance of Prof. Angelo Schenone.

I commenced my specialist training in neurorehabilitation in Pavia, Italy and then moved to Switzerland where I am currently working as a clinical researcher at the CHUV University Hospital and University of Lausanne where I am completing my specialist training as a neurologist together with an MD-PhD degree in stroke neurology at the University of Lausanne (UNIL) under the guidance of Prof. Patrik Michel.

My aspiration is to become an academic clinical researcher, developing expertise in the fields of stroke neurology and of neuroimaging in stroke. Hence, my main interests are in these two fields, focusing especially on acute stroke management, perfusion neuroimaging and outcome prediction.

How did you get involved in stroke research?

I first started to get involved in stroke research during my neurorehabilitaton training focusing on an ongoing project which has the aim to establish the role of blood biomarkers in stroke. After moving to Switzerland, I have had the chance to further develop my interest in stroke research by working as a clinical researcher taking care of the ongoing clinical trials at the Lausanne Stroke Center and, in parallel, to pursue a project on the development of prognostic assessment tools in acute ischemic stroke patients.

Why did you choose this topic?

Stroke has a high burden of disease representing one of the main causes of mortality and long-term disability worldwide. It is extremely time-dependant and sequelae can be greatly minimized if rapid and efficient clinical management are put in place. Hence, research in such field has the possibility to significantly make an impact on outcome and improve patient care.

What have been the most difficult challenges regarding your research career so far?

The first step has been to enter a competing and reputed specialist training programme in one of the top leading research centers worldwide. Secondly, research costs and requires funding. Thereby, one of the most challenging tasks is to shape and develop a strong project and to be able to put it in evidence to be able to get the necessary funding.

How do you balance work life and free time/home life?

Invest in your passions and you’ll find your balance. Cultivate and respect your friendships, care for your family, nourish your passions. This way you’ll find the best energy and positive mindset to develop yourself and your ideas. Moments of sharing and connection with different realities from our everyday environment help weave new thoughts, develop new projects and set up new goals.

What do you think a mentor should do to support the projects and the career of a mentee and, conversely, what should a mentee expect from a mentor?

A mentor should inspire and be able to transfer his knowledge through his passion. He should be able to help you develop your abilities by advising and motivating you throughout your work, challenging you to new tasks and experiences. There should be a mutual trust enabling the development of progressive competencies and responsibilities. Your commitment and dedication together with a protected time for research will be boosted thanks to his network and collaborations, infrastructure and initial financial support for research projects. Helping you to develop your capabilities and competencies will help you develop your career as an established expert in your field.

You as a mentee should therefore expect that he can share his experience in order for you to best face your own situations. You should give trust and show commitment and dedication to the work, expecting to be progressively more and more accountable.