Alumni Profile: Annemarie Weißenbacher

Annemarie Weißenbacher (DPhil Surgical Sciences, 2015) is a consultant surgeon based in Innsbruck, Austria. She is the clinical lead of her hospital’s kidney transplant programme. Here, she tells us how the skills she learned in Oxford helped her develop new clinical programmes.

I am a transplant surgeon from Austria and did a DPhil in Surgical Sciences at the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences on normothermic kidney perfusion.

I chose Green Templeton College because my mentor and supervisor Professor Peter J. Friend strongly recommended it and my fellow DPhil colleagues were also attached to Green Templeton. It was a very wise decision to follow their advice!

My interest in kidney transplantation had developed during the first years of my residency. It is extremely rewarding to watch the kidney, a real life safer, produce urine immediately after you release the vascular clamps and the new organ reperfuses well.

The rationale underpinning normothermic perfusion is that this mode of preservation enables normal cellular metabolism with recovery of cellular energy status, allows repair of reversible injury, and facilitates functional organ testing before transplantation. Multiple perfusion and biochemical parameters can be measured and therefore allow valuable assessment, while the kidney is on the ex situ perfusion circuit. These tests are not possible in a cold stored organ as a functional state cannot be reached under hypothermic conditions. This technology will help to increase the number of transplantable kidneys and saves more people’s lives.

My Oxford DPhil and the knowledge I gained there helped me to develop a clinical normothermic liver transplant programme and to work on a kidney perfusion programme also. My Oxford time definitely equipped me with a skill set I can use and apply in the clinical routine on a daily basis.

I am also heavily involved in teaching and offer a lecture series on ‘English in Clinical Reality’. One of my favourite roles is supporting surgical youngsters in their scientific career and it is an honour to give something back in the role as a mentor. It is of utmost importance for me that medicine is seen as part of the STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) family.

Green Templeton is a great place if you want to experience a vivid exchange between different specialties. Green Templeton makes it possible to widen your horizons through the possibility of getting to know different worlds.

The calming spirit of the Green Templeton environment still gives me a sense of safety and feeling at home. When I have busy days in my current job, I often think back and remember my time sitting in the college garden and chatting with the bursar Dr. Timothy Clayden who supported me with plenty of encouraging words during my thesis writing.

Outside of work, I love outdoor sports: mountain biking and road cycling in particular. In the past, I cycled from Paris to London for a charity, which I would love to do again after the pandemic. Another beloved hobby of mine is designing and tailoring dresses.

I am very grateful for everything I have achieved so far. I believe the best is yet to come and my motivation and enthusiasm will pave the way to progress further. Most importantly, my aim is to be a good human being.

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