Healthcare Research: Prof. Edgar Voltmer

The first ever professorship in Germany on promoting health during university studies and as a physician – structured to encourage people to improve their health, optimise health friendly organisations and programmes

On 1 February 2019, Prof. Dr med. Edgar Voltmer accepted the professorship to promote the health of students and employees at our Universität zu Lübeck. He has been conducting research since 2004, in cooperation with the university, on psychosocial stress among medical students and physicians.

As a result of the findings, our Universität zu Lübeck added an elective course in 2007: “Health and Well-Being of Medical Students and Physicians.” This addresses the potential risks faced by medical students and vocational trainees, and constructive strategies and training to overcome the problem. The course includes group exchanges of experiences and stress during studies, which one often tends to avoid.

Prof. Voltmer recalls, “I can well remember how a female student in this course once said, ‘And finally some of my fellow students admit having studied a lot for ages and still feel unsure of passing the test.’ In our focus groups, students reiterated such feelings with comments like, ‘One of the most crucial outcomes of this elective class was that 20 of us sat together and spoke openly about how we were feeling.”

Health is an integral part of our university’s overall concept

As the LUST trial (Lübeck University Students Trial) was kicked-off in 2011, the issue was embedded by setting up a Students Health Workgroup under Asst. Prof. Dr Thomas Kötter, supplemented by significant contributions of Prof. Voltmer as an external partner. Rigorous pursuit of this approach led to further consolidation by establishing a professorship and appointing its first ever holder – in Germany – to promote the health of university students and staff.

Prof. Voltmer elucidated: “Besides motivating and offering concrete ways to students to improve their personal health, an equally important goal is to investigate how to structure and organise our programmes to avoid stress. For instance, this concerns the abundance of individual tests, particularly at the pre-clinical stage of medical education. We have already done this in the MINT sections (mathematics, informatics, natural sciences and engineering) and significantly cut back the number of tests in both bachelor’s and master’s degree programmes. Nowadays, the share of female students is high in med school, as in other health sciences disciplines. Studies like the LUST trial have shown that women react more strongly to stress factors than their male counterparts. Hence, it begs the question of how to plan and execute measures to promote health and improve the overall organisation. In the final analysis, the experiences and well-being of our Universität zu Lübeck graduates who enter their professions are essentially unaddressed in terms of what we know about this, as well as what we do about it as a university.”

To this, Prof. Voltmer added, “I look forward to taking our Universität zu Lübeck to the stage where the health of our students and staff becomes an integral part of our university’s overall concept, and we address it rigorously through intervention. My particular hope is to network with the healthy university project, assistant deans for the medicine and MINT sections, the Institute for Occupational Medicine, other concerned units, as well as bring students on board to get involved in planning health promotion measures.”

Enthusiasm in teaching and research

Prof. Dr med. Edgar Voltmer was born in 1963 in Gifhorn. He attended med school in Hamburg, where he did clinical work for three years in gynaecology, obstetrics and internal medicine. He then joined the Techniker Krankenkasse (health insurer for engineers/technicians) and concentrated at first on prevention and health promotion, later moving on to a staff position responsible for company growth, followed by heading the organisation department. During this time, he completed training as a systemic consultant/family therapist (DGSF). A teaching assignment at the University of Hamburg awakened his enthusiasm in teaching and research, resulting in his switch to the Theological University of Friedensau (ThHF). He completed his habilitation on “Psychosocial Stress in Medical Students and Physicians and Approaches to Occupational Prevention and Health Promotion in Medical Students” at the Institute of Medicine for Musicians at the Albert Ludwig University of Freiburg, and in 2014 he was appointed at the ThHF as the Professor for Healthcare Sciences.

In 2009, he won the award for outstanding lectures at the Medical Faculty of the University of Freiburg. In 2010, he won the Karl Storz Prize conferred by the German Society for Phoniatry and Pedagogic Audiology for teaching academic courses in the elective course Medicine for Musicians, for which he co-taught the block entitled, “How to be and stay healthy as a physician.”

Prof. Voltmer is married, with two grown children. His favourite leisure activities are reading, sports, and listening to and playing music.

Prof. Dr Edgar Voltmer (Picture: René Kube / Universität zu Lübeck)