Prominent Members Under 45: Interview with Mira Katan

For 2018, via the ESO newsletter, we are focusing the spotlight on prominent ESO members under 45. In January we introduced you to Georgios K. Tsivgoulis. For February, we learned more about Else Charlotte Sandset. In March we presented Urs Fischer. In April you met Charlotte Cordonnier.

Hopefully you were able to meet some of these prominent young members in person during the ESOC in May. From the ESOC, the Young Stroke Physicians and Researchers Committee published daily interviews with Ayse Tanritanir, Stefania Nannoni, and Maren Ranhoff Hov. 

In the June edition of this series Marialuisa Zedde answered some questions. In July, we introduced Jesse Dawson, in August we met Diana Aguiar de Sousa and in September we got to know Robert Mikulik.

This month, we present, Mira Katan, Senior Physician, Research Group Leader and Lecturer, University Hospital Zurich, CH. In addition to her professional achievements, Mira is a member of the ESO Membership Committee Chair of the ESOC 2019 PR Committee. She is also a frequent contributor to the ESO blog, THE VOICE OF STROKE in Europe. 

What are the future perspectives in the field of stroke biomarker research?

My research focus lies in the field of blood biomarkers, a field which is growing by the day mainly due to advances in high-throughput technologies (e.g., “OMICs”) and improved knowledge in big data analysis allowing a more systematic understanding of stroke pathophysiology involving changes at multiple molecular levels (from genome to metabolome). In my opinion, blood biomarkers will play an increasing role especially in a more individualized risk classification and management of patients with stroke. In the area of precision medicine, good prognostic, diagnostic and etiological blood biomarkers will be essential.

Biomarker research requires strong collaboration among basic and clinical scientists, which is challenging but also highly rewarding. I think novel and creative ideas and thus the advancement of scientific understanding but also clinical practice are more likely to happen across these disciplines. Identifying, evaluating, and validating blood biomarkers in order to implement them into clinical routine can only be done if the translation from the bench to the bedside is done carefully and with attention to evidence-based principles. To achieve these goals, interdisciplinary and international networks are essential.

What does ESO do and what do you expect ESO will be doing in order to increase the influence of the new generation of clinicians and researchers?

ESO is already a very dynamic and visionary organization. Within each committee not only the very senior and established researchers and clinicians are at work and involved but also younger colleagues, female colleagues and people from different backgrounds and countries can contribute and all parties can learn from each other. For young researchers and clinicians ESO offers the ESO Stroke Summer and Winter School, the Department to Department Visit Programme and the opportunity to contribute to the great ESO blog. Thus I think in the last couple of years ESO has done already a great deal.

For the future probably mentoring and formal research training programs as well as funding opportunities may be of help and could be developed for colleagues around Europe to promote the early career phase.

What was your personal training in clinical and research activity and what do you suggest to young stroke physicians?

Investigators come mainly to the field of biomarker research from either the clinician or the laboratory science perspective, the ideal career approach may thus differ. My training after medical school included 6 years of residency in neurology and then also a formal 2 year training in clinical epidemiology and biostatistics. Certainly most clinical research skills can be obtained also by “learning by doing” under the supervision of a good mentor, but I would still advise to do, in addition to your clinical education and research fellowship, a Master’s degree program or even a PhD program in clinical research. This is also a good opportunity to go abroad and start to develop your research network get to know the people from the laboratory and if possible the industry.

In my experience living abroad promotes both professional but also personal progress by providing an opportunity to challenge one’s own inherent assumptions and allow for the development of fresh perspectives. Career-long research bonds may developer during such a stay abroad and they may help to create the next generation of international research consortia.

How do you manage clinical and research activity in your daily routine?

I think that clinical work is very inspiring and helpful to identify the most relevant research questions and research on the other hand is the basis for good clinical daily practice, thus actually both activities are in a way complementary. Still the time management issue remains, from my point of view it is partly solvable by trying to be as organised and focused as possible but it is even more important to have a great research as well as clinical team supporting you. Last but not least without the backing of my whole family it would not be possible at all.