Professor Christoph Hämmerle has served as president of the Osteology Foundation for 12 years. His term of office came to a close at the end of May 2015. In an interview, he looked back over the past 12 years and how the Osteology Foundation has developed since it was founded by Dr Peter Geistlich, who he reveres with gratitude and respect.
The Osteology Foundation was founded 12 years ago, and you have been its President since then. It seems that the Foundation has now “grown up” as it were. What are your recollections, when you look back on the development of the Foundation?
Christoph Hämmerle: The Osteology Foundation has grown to be a highly respectable organization over recent years. I think the key elements for this success have been the excellent teamwork among the members of the Foundation Board, the dedication of those working in the office and, very importantly, the support and the academic freedom granted by the Founder Dr Peter Geistlich.
When you look back, what were the highlights during those 12 years?
Christoph Hämmerle: The development of the Osteology Foundation has been a continual step-by-step process. There were many highlights during this development. Some key events surely were the National and International Osteology Symposia, which have grown steadily in size and reputation. Another important aspect has been the grant program providing support of research projects, which has led to many publications advancing soft and hard tissue regeneration in science and practice.
Yet another true highlight was the development of the Osteology Research Academy (ORA). This Academy offers education in research methodology to anyone interested and allows the participants of the courses to gather knowledge, acquire skills, as well as build and develop valuable research networks.
The Foundation was founded by Dr Peter Geistlich in 2003. How was your relationship with him?
Christoph Hämmerle: He truly was an elder statesman, a charismatic person who was very much respected by those around him. I enjoyed a trustful and respectable relationship with him. When I think of him, it is with gratitude and respect for what he did, what he achieved and who he was.
Can you share one or two personal moments with Dr. Peter Geistlich that you remember well?
Christoph Hämmerle: I felt very touched, when he offered me first name terms during a dinner. I know that he only offered this to a few people. I interpreted it as a sign of his trust in me and in our relationship. I also remember very well the charismatic way in which he made his statements, when we did recordings for an Osteology film.
And another situation that sticks in my mind was during the Osteology Symposium in Monaco in 2007, when I had the honor of presenting him with a gift. He was a rather reserved person, who usually didn’t like to be at the center of attention. But on this occasion he came onto the stage to accept the gift and the gratitude of the audience.
Did the Foundation experience any crisis or major problems during your 12 years of presidentship?
Christoph Hämmerle: No, we never experienced a crisis. There has always been a high level of dedication from the Osteology Office, sustained support from the founder and enthusiasm for the Foundation and its causes from within the Osteology Board. Of course, there were situations and decisions that called for intensive discussions, but ultimately we always found beneficial solutions paving the way for further progress of the Foundation.
It seems that the Osteology Foundation managed to put a large proportion of ideas into practice. It now offers a broad range of activities and tools for Scientists and Practitioners. At the outset, did you expect that the Osteology Foundation would grow to such an extent and become so successful?
Christoph Hämmerle: Definitely not. We did not foresee this significant and wonderful development. All this became reality, because we recognized the needs in this field, reacted to changes, identified important gaps and reacted positively to all these challenges. We responded to the needs in the field by offering education and training for researchers and clinicians, providing meaningful information in the form of research guidelines, offering grants for research projects, organizing funding for academic scholarships, reflecting the state of the science by conducting consensus conferences, etc.
Looking back over the past 12 years of the Foundation, we have clearly offered value to the community, which has been well received and has significantly contributed to the positive development in the field of hard and soft tissue regeneration.
Is there something of which you are particularly proud, or something special that you feel you have personally achieved during your presidentship?
Christoph Hämmerle: I believe it is most important that everybody has had the opportunity to put their influence and personal strength to good effect. Within the Board, the Office and the relationship with the Founder, there has always been a spirit of trust and respect allowing everyone to work to the best of his or her capabilities. I consider this one of the most important aspects in the success of the Osteology Foundation.
You are not saying a final farewell to the Foundation when your period of office ends in June. You will remain a member of the Foundation Board for two more years. Are there any specific projects that you plan to realize during this time?
Christoph Hämmerle: When one’s term is over, it is time to step down. But of course, I will provide support and advice where needed. With the new members of the Board and the Executive Board I am fully convinced that there will be further positive development of the Osteology Foundation.
At this point, I would also like to express my special thanks to the Board of Directors of Geistlich, in particular to Dr Andreas Geistlich, for having affirmed their continued support for the future of the Osteology Foundation.
When you are no longer president of the Osteology Foundation, what are you going to do with the plentiful free time you have?
Christoph Hämmerle: I will have more time to further develop online education. I am fully convinced that online education is becoming a key platform for the exchange of knowledge and for communication in our modern interconnected world. We started a project called “Dental Campus” back in 2007, which is unique and has a great potential for further development. So, maybe there will be not so much free time waiting for me. But of course I will also enjoy having more time to spend with family and friends, doing sports or being in the mountains.
Mariano Sanz will be the next president of the Osteology Foundation in June 2015. Is there something that you would like say to send him on his way?
Christoph Hämmerle: I have known Mariano for a long time and we have worked together for several years and on various projects. He is highly experienced and well established as a researcher, a clinician, an academic and a leader. With him as President, the Osteology Foundation will be in the best possible hands!
Thank you very much, Professor Hämmerle!
Interview: Dr Heike Fania