Cureus: Tell us about your background – how did you decide to pursue a career in medicine? How did you settle on brain surgery?
Alex: I started my medical career at the University of Mainz and did my doctoral on surgical strategies for multiple intracranial aneurysms. I was always fascinated by the option to work at the very central part of human beings – the brain. I got the chance to participate in one of the best neurosurgery programs in our country at the University of Munich Hospitals and finished the residency program there in 2003.
Cureus: You’ve also worked as the Director of the European Cyberknife Center in Munich for the past 9 years. How did you get involved with Cyberknife radiosurgery? What’s a typical day like for you at the Cyberknife Center?
During my residency program I got more acquainted with the possibilities of brain radiosurgery and it was obvious to me that this kind of non-invasive and equally effective therapy for certain tumors has a big future perspective. I did an additional two years of training in radiation oncology and teamed up with my partner Berndt Wowra who already was an experienced brain radiosurgeon. During that time we learned about the new radiosurgery innovation called Cyberknife and decided to found a new center together with the University of Munich Hospitals to offer this kind of treatment option for the first time in Germany. My ambition was and is to establish radiosurgery as a full body treatment method for the whole body, not only the brain.
Cureus: And as if that wasn’t enough, you’re also a professor at the University of Munich! What can you tell us about your professorial experiences over the years?
Alex: During my residency I worked on several research projects to do a thesis for an additional medical degree which is similar to the Ph.D. in the U.S.. Since I continued to publish scientific contributions after my thesis, the University of Munich appointed me a full professor in 2013. I was fortunate to receive this title as this is something you can not apply for yourself.
Cureus: How did you get involved with Cureus? What attracted you to the concept of an open-access, free-to-publish medical journal?
Alex: I’ve known John Adler for many years and we were both very involved in a medical society called The Radiosurgery Society. Initially our idea was to establish a medical journal for this society but when we started to work on it we came to the conclusion that there is urgent demand for a new way for medical publications to take on the web capabilities of the 21st century. We started with a small group and called our platform Peeremed.com. It was obvious that we needed to step up and find a more professional group to pursue our dreams of a real powerful web 2.0 journal plattform for the upcoming publishing generation. We had contacted several groups in Germany, but as all of the big web innovations nowadays come out of Silicon Valley we worked on establishing the new company – Cureus.com – in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Cureus: Not only are you a co-founder of Cureus, but you’re also the Co-Editor-in-Chief – what does that entail? Describe your daily editorial duties.
Alex: My job is to manage the articles from submission to final publication. I need to make sure they fulfill the criteria of a scientific contribution in terms of data quality, and also bureaucratic aspects like disclosures and conflict of interest. Furthermore I manage the review process with our team to achieve fast and high-quality reviews for our authors.
Cureus: Peer-reviewed medical science has grown increasingly political of late, with accusations of reviewer and editorial bias. What are your thoughts on this? Why is Cureus different?
Alex: Cureus offers the most unbiased possibility for publishing scientific data, as the decisions of how and what to publish remain up to the author. The author himself is responsible for his data, he keeps his copyright and is evaluated by the scientific community-at-large similar to ratings at YouTube or Amazon. This is a huge difference from the conventional publication process where two or three so-called insiders decide what is published or rejected - a very biased and inadequate way to evaluate the academic work of your fellow researchers.
Cureus: Thanks so much for taking the time!
Alex: Thank you.