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Featured Profile and Interview With Isabelle Opitz, MD

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Dr. Isabelle Opitz is the director of the department of thoracic surgery at University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland, and an associate professor for thoracic surgery at the University of Zurich, as well as the chair of the Lung Cancer Center in Zurich. Dr Opitz earned her MD from the Medical School University of Cologne, Germany, after which she trained in general, visceral, vascular, and thoracic surgery at Humboldt-Universität Berlin, Charité Campus Mitte, Germany. She went on to complete her general surgery residency at Cantonal Hospital Fribourg in Switzerland. She completed a clinical fellowship in thoracic surgery at the University of Toronto in Canada before taking a sabbatical for specialized training at the Marie Lannelongue Centre Chirurgical in Paris, France, in 2014.

Department of Thoracic Surgery, University Hospital Zurich

Dr Opitz’s clinical interests include malignant pleural mesothelioma, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, robotic surgery, extended oncological resections, and lung transplantation. Her research interests include malignant pleural mesothelioma, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, and non-small cell lung cancer. Dr. Opitz is currently ESTS Treasurer and serves on The Annals of Thoracic Surgery Editorial Board. She also participates on the SNSF National Research Council and IICT Steering committee, ISHLT Advanced Lung Failure and Transplantation Interdisciplinary Network Steering Committee, iMig Board and Program Committee, and as a member of the IASLC Taskforce Mesothelioma.

Dr. Opitz currently lives in Zurich, Switzerland, with her husband and two children. During her free time, she enjoys a variety of sports, including yoga, Pilates, alpine skiing, swimming, and surfing.

Catherine Joyce for CTSNet:

CTSNet: What is your favorite procedure? Why is it your favorite?

Isabelle Opitz: This is a difficult question; I enjoy minimal, as well as maximal surgery, robotic-assisted thoracic surgery (RATS), but also pulmonary endarterectomy (PEA) on cardiopulmonary bypass (CPB) at circulatory arrest. The skills and requirements for the two procedures are very different, but performing all types of surgery is my passion.

CTSNet: You’ve received an impressive list of awards. Please choose one to explain.

IO: I was granted a Swiss National Science Foundation (SNSF) Professorship in 2011 for 4 years, with an additional 2 years prolongation. The SNSF is the most prestigious scientific foundation in Switzerland and winning a SNSF Professorship is an honor and a validation, in particular for a clinician. This professorship was an important stepping-stone in my career, as I was able to create my own research group with the grant being still active together with the group since then.

CTSNet: How important is the international exchange of ideas, information, and techniques in cardiothoracic surgery?

IO: The exchange of ideas, for example during international conferences (such as the ESTS Annual Meeting), is essential for growth and innovation. Following the presentations gives the opportunity to align our clinical practice to international standards and guidelines, and furthermore, gain incentives for new developments and technologies. Moreover, it is an excellent platform to exchange ideas with colleagues in the same or other specialties, build up collaborations and networks, and after a few years it provides an opportunity to meet up with friends.

Research Lab, Department of Thoracic Surgery, University Hospital Zurich

CTSNet: What are your current research interests?

IO: I am principally interested in all research areas of thoracic surgery and, in my position as the head of our research lab, I am in the lucky situation to work together with great investigators from all fields (oncology, transplantation, and others). My own focus is on malignant pleural mesothelioma, chronic thromboembolic pulmonary hypertension, and non-small cell lung cancer.

CTSNet: How does your clinical research complement or influence your approach to patient care?

IO: In my opinion, physician/surgeon scientists are in the driver’s seat with regards to bringing up relevant questions and urgent clinical needs from daily practice into scientific research, what is called “from bedside to bench,” which works also the other way around “from bench to bedside” by implementing new research results into clinical routine.

CTSNet: Thank you, Dr Opitz.


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