An Interview with Dr. Viola Neudecker, Recipient of WINNER Abstract Award 2019

Max Kelz, MD, PhD
Max Kelz, MD, PhD

Max Kelz, MD, PhD
Chair of Scientific Affairs Committee

Dr. Kelz: How did you become interested in doing research in neuroanesthesiology?
Dr. Neudecker: Originally, I started my specialist training for anesthesiology. That was back in 2009 in Germany, after gaining my license to practice medicine. During my medicine studies and while starting to practice, I always pursued research in parallel. By working in different basic science laboratories, it became more and more important to me to do scientific research in anesthesia-related projects. When my husband and I moved to New York City in 2018, I strove to extend my knowledge in the field of developmental neurotoxicity working in the laboratory of Dr. Ansgar Brambrink, a long-time SNACC member and former SNACC president’s research group.  

Dr Viola Neudecker (left) is the 2019 recipient of the WINNER Award. Pictured at right is Alana Flexman, MD.

Dr. Kelz: What is your favorite part of doing research?
Dr. Neudecker: To me, research means pushing borders of knowledge, advancing the field, and ultimately enhancing our collective understanding while hopefully providing new opportunities in health care. I enjoy interacting and collaborating with like-minded people. I consider it particularly a great circumstance that I can study scientific questions in a clinically-attached research environment that allows for translational research.            

Dr. Kelz: How do you divide your time among all of your responsibilities?
Dr. Neudecker: I currently have the privilege of being involved full-time in research.

Dr. Kelz: What advice do you have for other women just starting out in research?
Dr. Neudecker: I personally think it is the same advice for everyone: performance counts. If we as women transmit that attitude, we have best chances to be recognized as equal and respected for what we do. Being open-minded, reflecting on one’s actions and situation, and staying flexible to me are essential skills. I personally have not experienced any limitations in what I wanted to do, just because of being a woman.   

Dr. Kelz: What is your proudest accomplishment to date?
Dr. Neudecker: At some point during my studies, I became aware that clinical work alone would not fully satisfy me, so I started combine clinical and scientific work aiming to become a so-called physician-scientist. This is not the easiest way, as it takes extra effort, especially if one stays not anchored with one medical school. I am proud of having published my research work in high impact scientific journals, but what counts most to me, is that I kept following my ideals and aspirations.  

Dr. Kelz: Is there anything you would change about your career?
Dr. Neudecker: I am really not a person who looks back or regrets because there are always good and bad experiences. I believe that some of the best learning happens when things are not going smoothly. The hardest situations I’ve faced have taught me the most about myself and others. These have helped me to improve. I think being courageous, seizing opportunities and honestly listening to your inner voice rather than focusing on meeting expectations of others will most likely lead to personal fulfillment.   

Dr. Kelz: What was the transition like in switching from your work in immunity and miRNAs to working in non-human primates?
Dr. Neudecker: When I started working in a new field, with a new animal model, and using and developing new approaches, extra effort was needed to become proficient, but being highly motivated and having excellent support was critical to success. I was and am still very excited to gain knowledge and work in this extremely important field of developmental neurotoxicity. I consider it is a great opportunity to work with data from non-human primates in view of their translational relevance to the field.     

Dr. Kelz: Who has been most influential in your career to date?
Dr. Neudecker: I have found important supporters and influencers at different steps during my career, and since I would not want to miss any of them, I cannot identify the most influential one. 

Dr. Kelz: How did this mentor best prepare you for your current work?
Dr. Neudecker: Throughout my different clinical and career steps, I have learned from people in various positions. That is important point as gaining knowledge from people in different position and levels and building a network can be very helpful when interacting and proceeding in future steps. This has been particularly important for me as I did not to follow a linear career.  

Dr. Kelz: How did you first become familiar with SNACC?
Dr. Neudecker: I had only started in the new research group end of 2018.  In one of our first lab meetings, I heard about this very special society. A short time after, I found myself applying to participate in a SNACC  satellite meeting at the 2019 IARS meeting, and after being invited, I really enjoyed experiencing a dynamic community discussing latest research findings in a very refreshing setting.

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