To qualify as an FESO, members must demonstrate scientific quality and a willingness to actively volunteer in ESO. There are no age requirements, but FESO must meet minimum standards. FESO receive additional benefits, including participation in the Council of Fellows. Visit our website for more information on how to distinguish yourself as a FESO.

We hope you enjoy getting to know the Fellows who participate in the 2020 interview series and thank them in advance for taking the time to share with our readers.

For the February issue of the ESO member newsletter, we bring you 2 interviews to begin the 2020 FESO series. Gian Marco De Marchis, MD MSc Priv. Doz. FESO, Neurology & Stroke Center, Universtiy Hospital Basel, Switzerland took the chance to interview Eleni Korompoki, MD, PhD, FESO, Department of Clinical Therapeutics, University of Athens, Greece.

Eleni Korompoki has been actively engaged in the ESO since 2015. She currently serves as a member of the ESO Guideline Board and participates in the development of the ESO Guidelines on secondary stroke prevention. She is also a founding member of the Hellenic Stroke Organisation, an Organisational member of ESO, where she currently serves in the Board of Directors. Eleni Korompoki is committed to promoting the vision of the ESO to reduce stroke burden and improve stroke management at national and European level.

How did your interest in the heart-brain interaction arise?

During my undergraduate studies I had developed a special interest in brain sciences. However, after graduating from medical school I decided to specialize in Internal Medicine so that my approach as a physician would be more holistic. The Department of Clinical Therapeutics, where I carried out my specialty training has a longstanding tradition in cardiovascular medicine. Early in my research career I decided that my research would be based on the link between the cardiovascular system and the brain. Thus, my PhD thesis was focused on the heart and brain connection at the early stages of essential hypertension. Later on, during my specialty training I decided to pursue more practical skills in heart and brain interaction and my mentor, Dr. Kostas Vemmos, inspired me to do my post-doctoral fellowship in stroke medicine. Stroke medicine represents an exceptional model on heart and brain connection considering that most causes of stroke are related to the cardiovascular system; on the other hand effective cardiovascular prevention may reduce stroke risk. Upon moving to the UK for further training in stroke medicine and stroke research I had plenty of opportunities to incorporate and translate all my knowledge and experience in cardiovascular medicine and stroke in high quality clinical research on heart and brain connection working together with Prof. Roland Veltkamp.

What are the big challenges in stroke medicine in Greece?

Acute stroke management in Greece still has room for improvement. A comprehensive national strategy for stroke management over the cycle of care and for mitigating the social consequences is lacking. Despite the presence of national guidelines, endovascular thrombectomy in Greece is not the standard of care. Limited resources, lack of systems of implementation and lack of a comprehensive national strategy are amongst the factors responsible for the gap between evidence based medicine and clinical practice.

Stroke patients are admitted in Internal Medicine and Neurology departments, since the existing specialized stroke units are very few. Moreover, those few stroke units are short-staffed. In addition, there is shortage of interventionists who can perform endovascular thrombectomy. Furthermore, there are serious obstacles in terms of access to rehabilitation services for these patients, since there is a limited number of public centres, located mainly in urban areas. Consequently, after the acute phase of stroke, patients are either transferred to private rehabilitation centres, where the cost is partly covered by Social Security Funds, or are discharged to their homes without participating in a rehabilitation program. According to the Greek tradition, provision of home care for chronically ill, disabled and elderly people is mainly provided either by relatives or by private carers, causing significant financial burden on families.

Consequently, the biggest challenge currently in Greece is to organise stroke units and rehabilitation centres, in accordance with the ESO standards within NHS, staffed by a multidisciplinary team with specialized knowledge in stroke care.

What is your advice to young women contemplating a career in stroke?

Women are under-represented in stroke medicine, especially in the fields of leadership and mentoring. Therefore, the participation of young women in these areas should be highly encouraged. As a member of WISE (Women Initiative for Stroke in Europe) I strongly believe that there should be mutual support amongst women, so that they successfully plan their career development as well as their personal life aspects.

Women who work as stroke care physicians can be at the same time spouses and mothers and in many occasions they need to step-down during their careers (e.g. for maternity leave). This usually happens at the time they are transitioning to a more senior role in their working environment. Taking into account my personal experience I would like to encourage young women who are considering a career in stroke medicine that it a feasible choice, despite the fact that it seems challenging. Stroke medicine offers a lot of opportunities depending on the personal circumstances. For example, soon after having my baby I stepped-down on my clinical career and I did post-doctoral research in the UK, which did not involve out-of-hours work. When my circumstances allowed, I returned to full-time clinical work and I also undertook a more senior post in stroke research, having gained a lot of experience during my post-doctoral fellowship. As a woman, I am keen on supporting other female colleagues and most of my mentees are women. It is very encouraging that in ESO there are women who have emerged as role models and they are exceptional examples. These colleagues have demonstrated significant achievements in all aspects of stroke care and research and, therefore, more and more women should be encouraged to take up such roles!

What are the main dos and don’ts for a healthy mentor/mentee relationship?

The relationship between mentors and mentees is dynamic, interactive and usually lifelong. Like any other relationship, a mentor-mentee relationship takes work from both sides. The mentor’s role is to provide guidance, encouragement, inspiration and support, while the mentee’s role is to be motivated, committed and proactive. It is very important to regularly evaluate and assess whether the goals and expectations from both sides are met.  Clear, open, honest communication will help both sides to determine whether the relationship has run its course and if it should be terminated.  Respect is a key point from both sides and one of the most important factors in determining the success of a good professional relationship. Honesty and trust are essential in a successful partnership. Commitment is key to making the partnership work. The mentee should be respectful to the mentor, for their achievements and their commitment to mentoring, since the mentor is spending valuable time for mentoring, often voluntarily. Mutual respect sets clearer boundaries that keep the relationship professional and on the right track. It is also important to have a clear idea of respective roles, as well as be aware of any explicit or hidden biases that could potentially affect the relationship. Although many mentor-mentee relationships usually progress into friendship, they should be initiated as professional collaboration.