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An introductory lecture to anatomy for neurosurgical practice

Like mountaineering, jazz and drawing: “Our profession is beautiful, and it is a fun profession!” says Professor Winckler.

Published onNov 14, 2023
An introductory lecture to anatomy for neurosurgical practice


The training has been advertised for a while and it sounds very exciting: an emeritus professor from Vienna, Prof. Winckler, has received from his friend, the former chef of the Clinique in Charité, the mission of creating a neuroanatomy training. “You have time now that you are retired.” I am sitting with Anna Roethe in the back of the most famous anatomical theatre of the German medical world. Prof Winckler sometimes sounds like a grand uncle who can’t get tired of telling stories from a broad repository of the history of a family spanning the northern hemisphere: the neurosurgeons and the explorers of the brain. Each feat has a place and a name associated to it, and he is visibly pretty excited to find himself lecturing in this venue: “In this very amphitheatre lectured the person who gave neurons their name!” The glory of the anatomical institute of the Charité (despites the shadows of its creepy historical episodes commemorated in the lobby)—shines a bright light on the pan-European endeavour of this “first comprehensive neuroanatomy” training. It may sound obvious from an outsider perspective, yet it has to be repeated many times during the lectures, as it is stated in the introduction: knowing the brain anatomy (and its variants!) will give the neurosurgeon more fluency and comfort: “Our profession is beautiful, and it is a fun profession!” says the professor. In the opening lecture, he traces three teachers that have elevated his practice: mountaineering, ballet dance and jazz. Climbing is for the endurance and the sense of preparation. Ballet for the (he shows pictures of his daughter, a ballerina at the London ballet) is for the intensity and importance of practice, “9 hours a day”; and jazz for the fundamental interdependency between knowing the notes and achieving the freedom to improvise. He showed to us bands of practising neurosurgeons playing gigs at conferences, and later insisted in sending me one of his CDs. One more essential link between the artistic practice and surgery: the practice of sketching while dissecting brains, in order to develop a tridimensional understanding of the elements of the anatomical structures. “I drew this myself,” he tells me proudly as I show him this digital drawing after the lecture.

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