Wednesday 14 August 2019

Christoph Schwarz has recently joined INFANT as a visiting clinical research fellow.

Get to know him a bit better!


I’m a Paediatrician and Neonatologist from Tuebingen in Germany where  I did my training at the University of Tuebingen in Germany – in a very old nice university city like UCC and Cork, actually. I was an attending neonatologist at a large paediatric department there for the past year. My job there had quite a clinical focus with some research, but I felt that research should have a bigger role in my life.

I love neonatology as it incorporates the senses a lot in medicine such as feeling, hearing, seeing, touching. The baby is born with minimal medical history with decisions frequently made based on clinical examinations and experience.

I hope to return to clinical work again in the near future once I have gained further experience in research  and research techniques.


The road to INFANT

I decided that I wanted to focus on research for the next few years. With two small children now, myself and my wife decided that the time was right to gain experience in another country.  Moving to another country would be an interesting life experience while allowing us to improve our language skills. It will also help me professionally and ultimately become an independent researcher.

When I was researching, reading papers, attending conferences the INFANT centre kept popping up. I reached out to Gene Dempsey (INFANT PI) in November 2017 to ask him what I had to do to become a member of the INFANT team? Five minutes later he said, “send me your CV”.  Five minutes after that he said “OK, what do we have to do to get you here?”.

In February 2018 I travelled to Cork to visit the INFANT Research Centre. I was instantly impressed with the multidisciplinary skills within the centre and the teaching and team spirit. So, we decided to go for it!

Next, we designed an observational trial and applied for a scholarship from the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft DFG). I was awarded the scholarship which will allow me to stay here for 24 months. Additionally, we received support from Osypka Medical (Berlin, Germany) to use a non-invasive monitor called ICON to measure how the heart pumps continuously.

Tell us about your research

I’m going to work on the NOAH Study which is focused on Non-invasive Objective Assessment of Hemodynamics. It is common to focus on blood pressure alone which is measured via a central line or a “balloon” on the arm or the leg but this one measure doesn’t tell you the whole infant ‘story’. Over the years, I always questioned if blood pressure alone was the best way forward and did we really know what we were doing? I needed to get answers to my questions.

Prof Dempsey is doing research on this topic for 10+ years. He and our multidisciplinary team at INFANT are supporting me to compare different types of non-invasive monitoring and we will see if one of them (or a combination of them) will give us more information on how the blood is going through the body; how the heart is pumping, how the heart and lungs are working together to bring oxygen to the cells. I would like to find something that guides us on the developmental outcomes of these preemie babies when they are all grown up. First, of course, we have to see if it is feasible, if this complex data we collect is useful, in real-time. And then down the line, we will see if we can base clinical decisions on what we have learned.

In September, I hope to enrol the first baby. I have got so much support from everyone, with all their knowledge and experience. It has gone beyond work, the team have helped me personally too, from finding a house to live to finding a crèche for my kids! The kindness of the people here is awesome.