MARCH 31, 2023
Alexander Zarbock, MD, PhD, focuses on advancing the entire field of anesthesiology through both clinical and scientific research. From his daily 5 am run to his time in the lab and OR, he is consistently reflecting on how he can play a vital part in shaping that trajectory forward through his leadership role as Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Intensive Care Medicine and Pain Therapy at the University Hospital Münster in Germany. Now he hopes to take his impact on anesthesia research and education to the next level by joining the International Anesthesia Research Society (IARS) Board of Trustees as one of its newest members. With his dedication to critical care and research excellence, he is uniquely positioned to make a significant contribution to the organization’s mission to support education and research through discovery.
Alexander Zarbock, MD, PhD
As Executive Section Editor in Basic Science for Anesthesia & Analgesia, the official journal of the IARS, Dr. Zarbock is no stranger to the important impact of IARS education and research resources, and how they serve the anesthesiology community. Now, in another IARS leadership role as a board member, Dr. Zarbock is eager to make a greater impact on the specialty and patient care. “It’s a huge honor to now be a member of the Board of Trustees,” he relayed. “We can shape the future of the specialty, so that we can create an environment where we educate physicians and support scientists so they can do research that improves the field and improves the outcome of patients.”
With more than $8.9 million of peer-reviewed funding support for his own research, Dr. Zarbock has witnessed first-hand how scientific research helps physician-scientists to improve patient care and advance health outcomes. Throughout his journey as an investigator, he has benefitted from the support of prestigious funding agencies such as the German Research Foundation, where he has received 12 substantial grants to pursue his research. He has applied this help into two compelling areas of study.
In basic and translational research, he is focused on organ dysfunction, examining molecular mechanisms of leukocyte recruitment in inflamed tissue and attempting to better understand their mechanisms. In this investigation, Dr. Zarbock and his research team have been able to describe the regulation of leukocyte activation and recruitment during inflammation and tissue hypoxia. “We need to understand the pathophysiology of the disease before we can treat it. Here we use different animal models to understand the pathophysiology of organ dysfunction,” he explained. “In the last couple of years and in the last 20-30 years, anesthesia has become really safe. We should try to focus on the prevention of complications after surgery.”
This is one reason he also chose to focus his clinical attention on organ dysfunction. “We try to prevent the development of acute kidney injury (AKI) and also improve patient outcomes,” he expounded. “We did a couple of studies showing that the implementation of supportive measures can really prevent the development of acute kidney injury and also improve patient outcome. We try to cover everything from basic science to prevention of complications after cardiac surgery, and by this, we try to improve overall patient outcomes.”
In speaking to Dr. Zarbock for just a few minutes, his passion for advancing research and providing a service to young researchers is clear. He understands the importance of supporting young scientists so they can become independent, develop their careers and contribute to the specialty of anesthesiology. “Everybody needs mentoring to go in the right direction. It is important so you can make the right decisions,” he relayed. “If you are writing a grant or planning the next step of your career, you always need the advice of someone more experienced than you are.” Throughout his career, he has benefitted from such support and been recognized with multiple awards and honors as a mentee and mentor. Some of these recognitions include a Young Investigator Award and a Promotion Award from the German Research Foundation for Microcirculation and Vascular Biology, Invitrogen Trainee Achievement Award from the American Association of Immunologists, Van Leeuwenhoek distinctive Travel Award, European Society of Microcirculation, Expertise in Leadership from the B. Braun foundation and a Else-Kröner Memorial Award of the Else-Kröner-Freseniusstiftung from the German Interdisciplinary Association for Intensive Care and Emergency Medicine.
Dr. Zarbock does not take this trust in his leadership and research skills lightly and is dedicated to serving many medical journals and organizations. In addition to his role on the A&A Editorial Board and now on the IARS Board of Trustees, some of his other contributions include Section Editor for the Journal of Immunology, Editorial Board member of Blood Purification, and Chair of the Research Committee of the European Society of Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care.
His commitment to advancing scientific knowledge is not restrained to his institution or country, but extends well beyond. Dr. Zarbock emphasized the importance of building a global network to amplify impact. “That’s what research is for me, to collaborate with other people, not only in your country, but also around the world,” he said. “By doing this, you always get new impressions. You can influence other people, and they can influence you, and that’s how we can advance the field — by collaborating.” He hopes to share this international perspective with the IARS to further enhance the organization’s reach globally.
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