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Three Top Female Physicians Earn Habilitation/Post-Doc the JKU Faculty of Medicine

The female physicians and scientists were presented the venia docendi for medicine.

Anna-Sophie Mursch-Edlmayr; photo credit: KUK
Anna-Sophie Mursch-Edlmayr; photo credit: KUK

Physicians and scientists Anna Sophie Mursch-Edlmayr, Judith Wagner and Veronika Buxhofer-Ausch received their venia docendi for medicine and will hold courses at the Faculty of Medicine at the Johannes Kepler University Linz. The three driven and passionate physicians look forward to inspiring JKU medical students with their enthusiasm for their respective subject areas, thereby providing physicians of tomorrow with real-world, hands-on training in medicine.

Dr. Anna Sophie Mursch-Edlmayr, Kepler University Hospital, works at the Department of Ophthalmology and Optometry.
As part of her post-doctoral studies, she explored blood flow to the optic nerve and retina in glaucoma patients as well as age-related macular degeneration. Measurements were taken using a fairly new method called Laser Speckle Flowgraphy (LSFG).

Dr. Mursch-Edlmayr remarked: "In comparison to healthy individuals, we were able to show that glaucoma patients have a reduced flow of blood to the optic nerve. In regard to patients who have age-related macular degeneration, we showed that current standard treatment using injections (anti-VEGF) significantly impacts retinal and choroidal blood flow." Further studies in this subject area are in the planning stages.
As an educator, Dr. Mursch-Edlmayr hopes to inspire students to pursue ophthalmology: "Ophthalmology is very diverse, requiring immense knowledge and offering a unique combination of conservative and surgical activities. The development of new technologies and drugs are consistently improving patient treatment, creating countless opportunities to actively conduct academic/scientific work."

PD OÄ Dr. Judith Wagner, Kepler University Hospital, works at the Department of Neurology.
Two of the most common neurological symptoms are vertigo and gait instability. Almost a quarter of patients whe come into the outpatient clinic with dizziness suffer from central vestibular pathway disorders. These pathways form a complex network with the somatosensory (sensory perception) and oculomotor (eye movements) systems. Wagner's post-doctoral dissertation focused on two disorders: downbeat nystagmus (downward eye tremor) and Pisa syndrome (lateral tilt of the body axis). Dr. Wagner conducted her research at the Ludwig-Maximilian-University in Munich as well as at the Fundación Favaloro in Buenos Aires, adding new data about the neuroanatomical and pathophysiological basis, etiology and prognosis to significantly expand our understanding of central vestibular regulation.
Judith Wagner looks forward to introducing students to the subject of neurology: "Students studying neurology for the first time often find the subject complicated and hard to get into at first. I want to show them that it's worth the effort because neuroscience has broad applications and few fields have experienced developments as rapidly as neuroscience has."

PD OÄ Dr. Veronika Buxhofer-Ausch, Ordensklinikum Linz Elisabethinen, works in the Department of Hematology & Oncology.
Her post-doctoral dissertation focused on bcr-abl negative myeloproliferative diseases (MPN), which are chronic blood cancers associated with the initial overproduction of blood cells. This can result in, among other things, an increased risk of thrombosis. The extent of just how cell counts influence thromboembolic risk is not clear. Dr. Buxhofer-Ausch remarked: "As part of a collaborative effort, I looked at the impact of leukocytosis and thrombocytosis on thromboembolic events in particular by evaluating patients both in an international cohort and in a large national patient registry. We were able to show that leukocytosis in particular is an important risk factor so when choosing treatment, it should be taken into account. We were also able to show that leukocytosis is an important criterion to help correctly diagnose and distinguish between the different bcr-abl negative MPN subgroups."
Dr. Buxhofer-Ausch added that being a physician is a diverse profession, offering many opportunities to become more involved, both clinically and scientifically. "As an educator, it's important to me to get students excited about hematology and also to make them aware of rare but important hematologic diagnoses."

Habilitation as a Special Scientific/Academic Qualification
In Europe, the ‘habilitation’ is a special, academic certification that qualifies candidates to independently conduct scientific research and teach the entire range of his/her respective subject area [facultas docendi]. In turn, this is a prerequisite to grant teaching authorization [venia legendi]. At different universities and faculties, the habilitation requirements [so-called habilitation criteria] are regulated differently however, they include a habilitation dissertation in addition to other scientific achievements. These can also consist of several academic/scientific publications of outstanding quality [so-called cumulative habilitation]. In addition, candidates must stand before a habilitation commission and hold a special presentation and lecture as well as an in-depth scientific debate in the form of a colloquium. "The candidate’s ‘didactic’ aptitude is demonstrated by a course related to the degree program. In the field of medicine, the habilitation is generally a prerequisite to obtain a professorship," explains Andreas Gruber, Dean of Research and chairman of the habilitation commission at the JKU's Faculty of Medicine. Six physicians have completed their habilitation at the JKU.

The Future of Medicine is Increasingly Female
Christine Haberlander, deputy Minister of Health, stated: "Congratulations to these female physicians! Cutting-edge medical advancements in Upper Austria is important to us and there is a strong focus on - and support for - medical research. Patients in particular will also benefit. I am particularly pleased that two of the award-winning female physicians also received a post-doc/habilitation scholarship from the state. These scholarships were created as an incentive to physicians interested in higher qualifications. This fact that there are three female physicians is a strong sign that cutting-edge medicine is becoming more female."

JKU Rector Meinhard Lukas remarked: "Six physicians have already completed their habilitation/post-doc at the JKU and two more will follow soon. This is a great compliment to our young medical school, showing that our hands-on undergrad/graduate medical degree program is not only being very well received by students, but is also attracting physicians who want to pass on their knowledge as educators. I would like to congratulate the physicians on receiving their habilitation qualifications. I wish them much success and joy in their teaching and research activities at the JKU!"

Elgin Drda, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Vice-Rector for Medicine at the JKU added: "Three highly qualified female physicians will enthusiastically pass their professional expertise on to physicians of tomorrow. I would like to congratulate all of them! I am very excited about the very positive reinforcement in our young faculty. These women physicians are enthusiastic about science and it is our goal is to provide these women with home at our faculty and support them as best we can. Medicine is becoming increasingly female, as seen by the application statistics to study medicine. Out of the 2,223 prospective students who signed up for the Med entrance examination this year, almost two-thirds are women."