Eric Hesse, M.D., Ph.D.
Institution: University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg, Germany
Career Stage: Professor and Director of Research, Department of Trauma, Hand and Reconstructive Surgery, Orthopedic Trauma Surgeon
Research Focus: Osteoblast biology, bone remodeling
ASBMR committee/leadership positions held: Professional Practice Committee since 2013
What brought you to the bone field and why have you stayed?
As a medical student at Hannover Medical School in Hannover, Germany I was fascinated by the anatomy lectures and participated in an extra course focusing on the anatomical principles of the skeleton. This course stimulated my interest in bones and motivated me to launch my clinical career in the larger field of musculoskeletal medicine.
After graduating with my M.D., I started my residency in the Department of Trauma Surgery. During this time I was not only faced with fixing fractures, I also interacted with many patients that had very interesting and often rare diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system, including tumor patients. This experience further stimulated my curiosity in the bone field and encouraged me to focus on my research activities and to finish my Ph.D.
To learn more about basic bone research I decided to pursue postdoctoral training on the topic of molecular regulation of osteoblast differentiation, function, and bone homeostasis. I did this first at Yale University School of Medicine and later at the Harvard Schools of Medicine and Dental Medicine, where I was promoted to junior faculty prior to assuming an independent position. Although mainly focusing on basic science, I remained interested in clinical and translational research and cooperated with clinicians in Europe and the US. This work led to several findings, which kept me highly motivated.
After being initially supported by a postdoctoral fellowship funded by the German Research Foundation, I was supported by the Gideon & Sevgi Rodan IBMS Fellowship, the Harvard Deans Fellowship, and received several awards including the ECTS New Investigator Award and the ASBMR Young Investigator, John Haddad and Harold Frost Awards. In addition to the exciting time in the lab, the scientific discoveries, and my personal growth in the field, these important recognitions helped to motivate me to pursue my research in the bone field.
I have never regretted joining and staying in the bone field and believe that it offers tremendous opportunities to investigate and treat diseases affecting the musculoskeletal system. I feel that being at the interface between basic bone biology and clinical medicine is an enjoyable key position and that my training in orthopedic surgery might help me to move things forward.
What has been the most memorable moment of your career thus far?
A very memorable experience was the phase of starting my own independent lab. Setting up a lab, getting projects going, hiring very good people, making my own discoveries, writing grants and getting funded was in fact a challenging period, especially in the middle of economically difficult times with decreased funding. However, it is very encouraging to be well positioned to contribute to the field with an independent new group and to have the chance to participate in the training of the next generation of skeletal biologists. I also find it very motivating to be a physician-scientist with the opportunity to launch basic science connected to clinical patient care with all its mutual benefits.
How has membership with ASBMR benefitted you?
ASBMR and its annual meetings greatly fostered my career by providing access to first class research and excellent scientists in the field. The Society facilitates the interaction between colleagues around the world and therefore contributes to scientific interactions and collaborations. These exchanges have benefited my work and I got to know many interesting people, several of whom became very good friends. ASBMR also provides valuable educational resources like the Primer, Meet-the-Professor sessions, webinars, and seminars designed for younger investigators. I am therefore more than happy to be a member of ASBMR and to have the chance to contribute to the activities of the society as a recently appointed member of the Professional Practice Committee.