I am a biochemist and molecular biologist and have worked in cancer research for more than 10 years. I spent most of my scientific career in Germany, where I was awarded a PhD in natural sciences. Afterwards, I worked as a Post-Doc in the Northern Institute for Cancer Research, an internationally recognised centre for anti-cancer drug discovery in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.
In 2014, I went back to Germany, where I led the Department of Molecular Genetic Diagnostics in a haematological routine diagnostic laboratory. Here, I worked in close collaboration with scientists and medical doctors that were treating patients with leukaemia and other blood cancers.
“Then I took a decision.
I finally realised I wanted to pack my things,
take all my knowledge, and become a naturopath.”
When I finished high school I wanted to study. I wasn´t sure what exactly, but I had the naive idea that I wanted to do something good for the world, so that other people would benefit from my work. At least that was the long-term goal.
I did my dual studies in biochemistry and molecular biology in Germany and was awarded a PhD afterwards. During the 4 years I spent on my doctorate, I had long days of laboratory work on a topic related to childhood blood cancer, also called leukaemia. 12 years after starting my studies, I was a researcher and supervisor at the Northern Institute of Cancer Research in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK. Here, I wanted to finally start making an impact on the world.
THE HYPOCRISY OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH AND
WHY NEW DRUGS ARE NOT DEVELOPED AT UNIVERSITY
In the north of England, I learned a lot about lab work and the scientific world. Most importantly, I learned that in cancer research you always need to advertise your project saying that the results of this study might lead to the development of new drugs in the future… and a lot of bla bla bla.
However, I never met ANYONE at university who´s research ever led to the development of a new cancer drug. That struck me.
In fact, in the past 20 years there is only one new cancer drug that was entirely developed at university. It is the famous BCR-ABL tyrosine kinase inhibitor Imatinib™, which today is produced by Novartis for the treatment of Chronic Myeloid Leukaemia (CML).
In these years in the UK, I realised that chances were almost zero that I would be able to contribute to any future cancer treatment regimens at university, simply because in the past 20 years almost no one else did. However this is the declared objective of cancer research. Actually, almost all new drugs for cancer treatment have been development in the pharmaceutical industry and not at university. The main reasons are costs and revenue.
I do not want to be misunderstood, it’s not that I didn´t try or didn´t believe in myself. However, if no one else in the whole world has developed a cancer drug at the university in the past 20 years, realistically, why would I be the one?
Back in Germany, I got a job as head of the Molecular Genetic Department in a haematology lab at the university hospital in Cologne. There, I supervised technicians, and collaborated with scientists and medical doctors. I got a sense of what it means to routinely work in the treatment of cancer patients. And I saw the doctors: always tensed, always busy, and always tired. I will never forget how many times per minute they were blinking; their eyes looked so tired.
In the past 20 years, worldwide academic research has contributed almost nothing to the development of new cancer drugs, and thus to the treatment of cancer patients. I studied and became a cancer researcher to achieve something. And my personal goal has always been to do have a positive impact on the world, so that other people would actually benefit from my work
Seeing how revised the doctors at the university hospital in Cologne were in combination with the above stated facts finally made me want to leave university to leave.
But what should I do with my knowledge? Basically, it was quite obvious. I was looking for a job where I could directly help people, do practical work with people, and use my current knowledge. Becoming a medical doctor was not an option for me. Bear in mind that during education every doctor needs to spend a couple of years in hospital. In Cologne it became clear to me what it means to work in a hospital: It is too much stress. And: who is tired and stressed, makes mistakes. This is dangerous for the patients. Besides, there is almost no time for your private life if you work at hospital.
And this is how I became a naturopath: Of course, I had to study a lot to gain all this medical knowledge you need to be able to correctly make a patient history, diagnose, and treat people. But this is what I was doing all my adult life: studying. Today, I am a German medical practitioner („Heilpraktiker“) and work as a certified naturopath in my therapy room in Vejer de la Frontera, Andalucía, Spain. The good thing is: I can use much of my knowledge from my scientific life, as well as my good biological understanding and excellent analytical thinking skills. This often helps me to crack even the tough nuts.
By the way, my patients are HUMANS. Humans who deserve to be respected, that need to get enough attention (timewise and emotionally), and whom I can hopefully help. That’s why I prefer to call my patients clients, also because healthy and sick people are not like black and white. For a good health, our body, mind, and soul need to be in balance, yes. But what if that’s not the case? Would you call yourself sick straight away?
Terms such as ill, sick, healthy, old, young, beautiful, ugly, etc., are often used too easily. Everything is relative and also sickness and health exist in shades of grey. You can visit a naturopath, although you are not sick at all. For example, you can visit a naturopath to get more energy in your everyday life, or because you need someone you can trust and who is listening to you. You might just have a small skin infection that needs disinfection or extra care. I do not think that one should therefore immediately be referred to as sick or as a being a patient.
Anyway, I am so happy not having to be a slave of a healthcare system that always saves on staff and on time. Did you know a general practitioner in the NHS on average has 10 minutes for you on each visit? I take as much time as it takes to solve your health issue. But there is a catch: My clients have to be able to pay me privately.
I wish you a good health!