Erika Zelko became Chair of General Medicine at the JKU Faculty of Medicine on October 1.
With over 25 years of experience as a physician, the Slovenian-born head of General Medicine also taught general medicine at the Faculty of Medicine in Maribor for 16 years and served as head of the research group at the Department of General Medicine.
What makes the medical profession and your field special?
Erika Zelko: General medicine is an extensive field and in regard to patients, physicians often face a wide range of issues. When it comes to treatment, the individual has to be the focus of attention; this means his/her physical, emotional, and psychological needs, taking his/her cultural and family background into account. A person who is more or less well integrated in a social environment can have certain distinctive features. An important part of any therapeutic treatment is the valuable patient/doctor relationship, particularly one that has developed over many years of treatment. A general practitioner’s responsibilities also includes awareness in regard to the social environment and community-oriented work so that the physician can guarantee patient care close to home.
When it comes to teaching, what do you intend to focus on?
Erika Zelko: In addition to - and alongside – the challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic, new challenges include core general practice skills (primary care patient management, personalized care, specific skill sets and problem-solving abilities, comprehensive care, "community" orientation and holistic modeling). In the future, family physicians of tomorrow must be prepared for new fields of activity that include digitalization, e-medicine and balancing "high tech-low touch and low tech-high touch".
What are your expectations and visions...
Erika Zelko: The Faculty of Medicine ought to prepare students to pursue a modern career in medicine – a career that is aimed at upholding and aspiring to a high level of professionalism of general practice in Austria. A career of this kind requires innovation and flexibility and not only responding to current challenges, but also creating forward-looking concepts in support of contemporary medical care. In the future, this will also ensure the healthcare system is of high quality and reliable for both patients and employees. I am looking forward to strong collaboration with partners interested in - and responsible for - healthcare in Upper Austria and beyond borders.
What are your hobbies?
Erika Zelko: Unfortunately, I don't have much time for hobbies, but I enjoying hiking and riding my bike. I love to travel but traveling has become a bit more difficult at the moment. Fortunately, we can once again go to the theater, concerts and art exhibitions.
How do you like to relax?
Erika Zelko: I find that long walks in the forest or reading a book while listening to good music soothes the soul, which also need a chance to rest and unwind.
How do you like Linz?
Erika Zelko: Linz is a lively, creative city with a lot of potential. The food is good, there are plenty of cultural activities, and meeting nice people has added to my overall impression. I'm also looking forward to enjoying the beautiful green surroundings – the green spaces in the city facilitate living closer to nature.