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Michael Witsch

Dr. Michael Witsch


ISPAD member since 2010


Why am I an ISPAD member? A SWEET little story.

Arriving in Luxembourg at the children’s hospital after working all the time for 15 years in the same German hospital was remarkably challenging. Not only because of the French, which I had to learn from scratch, but also being confronted with an entirely different structure. A flat hierarchy without a director makes life sometimes easier, we do not have any problems of medical authority in our endo/diabetes team, but for whole hospitals, it can also slow down many decisions. Also, the fact working in a small country with an international contact regarding patients and colleagues was new for me. In general, I was not going much to international congresses and, even working for a long time in the field of pediatric diabetes, ISPAD was not familiar for me.

I was in the benchmarking group of the German DPV system and had the chance to learn a lot from Reinhard Holl who held the lead of that group. You have to know that Carine de Beaufort, our last General Secretary, built up the pediatric diabetes department in Luxembourg; at the beginning alone then together with Ulrike Schierloh. I joined the team in 2009 and now we are 5 endocrinologists/diabetologists, all working part-time to have enough time for other activities.

Since the beginning of my medical career, I have been interested in computer technology and how to integrate it in our busy daily work routine so that it helps us. In my former hospital, we developed an electronic patient file dedicated for pediatric needs, with percentiles, neonatal module and all the stuff relevant to a paediatric department. Carine de Beaufort saw this potential advantage and introduced me in 2010 to SWEET.

Participating in the first meeting was so encouraging for me. It was at this time with a small group, all ISPAD members, some of them with a very extensive list of publications, that I said to myself, “Ok, what could my additional benefit be to this group?” I didn’t see it at the beginning; I just felt very “small”. I was extremely kindly welcomed and introduced, even not having anything to add at the moment. My English was not at all fluid – I was not used to speaking in English, and I never wrote in English. One year later in 2011, I remarked that there were a lot of problems between the clinicians and the company who was in charge of the database, and that was the point to get in. I worked together with the company, we adapted the reporting on our needs. On the other hand as a medical doctor, I believe that one has more authority to convince the colleagues to take more care of data quality. The interest in SWEET was growing, the contact to ISPAD became closer.

In 2014 Reinhard Holl’s team in Ulm/Germany took over the database and now 63 centres from all over the world sent 450,000 datasets from 40.000 patients. My responsibility is to create twice a year the benchmarking reports. Every year new centres, new items, new challenges to cover in the report shows the diversity of our field. Struggling from preventing children to die at onset or later on because of lack of sufficient support in one centre and carefully monitoring if all the new technologies are resulting in a better outcome in other centres. The crucial questions of benchmarking not only collecting parameters which are easily measurable, but also to focus on the quality of life, the feasibility of treatments and the psychological impact of what we are proposing and demanding to our patients are tasks for the future which can only be answered in close cooperation between us all. And therefore we need ISPAD and international registries as SWEET. The understanding that the diversity of pediatric diabetes represented in ISPAD helped me to develop a critical view on my convictions. The understanding that you cross just one border and you do not anymore believe that children have to stay in the hospital to put them on a pump or that they can leave the hospital at onset after three days. Or that other colleagues have to deal with so much more essential problems, even to work under personally life threatening conditions.

That’s ISPAD for me, and that’s why I’m a member.

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