Prof. Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl: 300 years of Charité Berlin – Tradition and innovation side by side

More than ever our society is steeped in the assessment of individual and collec­­tive knowledge, especially specialist knowledge.

Medicine is a particularly good example. All the research, development and appli­­cations in this area affect mankind in their basic needs and interests: maintaining their health and recovering from diseases. In co-operation with his doctor, the knowl­­edge­­able patient makes reason­­able decisions based on a sufficient edu­­cation and good information. In addition, emotional and social needs must be considered. Modern medicine enables the patient to be more than merely an object of medical care. The increasing number of new health centres where diagnostic and therapeutic offers of the modern high-performance medicine are explained to the patients in talks and in easy-to-under­­stand information materials is there­­fore to be appreciated. Modern university hospitals turn more and more into aca­­demic health centres where the entire range of personal healthcare and public health are attended to and studied.


This way medicine can continuously fill the always current project of enlighten­ment with new life. Health issues are of interest to all people and everybody can experience first-hand what positive re­­sults sci­­en­­tific progress can have in an enlightened and humane knowledge society.

1710 till 2010. For 300 years now, the Charité has been pursuing this development, from a hos­­pital for the poor in the beginning to a faculty of medicine and to today’s united “Charité – Univer­si­täts­medizin Berlin”. The history of the Charité began with establishing a pesthouse in front of the gates of Berlin and is now associated with groundbreaking achievements in the fields of science, medicine and nurs­ing. The name Charité is associated with re­­nowned scientists and doctors, like Robert Koch, Hermann von Helmholtz or Rudolf Virchow. The Charité owes its international fame to them. Tradition and change are close to each other: What has remained is the basic idea of charity – the name Charité (charity, mercy) says it all – and the mission to provide clinical training on the highest level for future doctors. The tasks that were para­­mount at that time were the reason to found the hospital.


Since then the questions regarding the exis­­t­­ence, extension, re­­modelling or re­­con­struc­­tion of the hospital as well as de­­mands and re­­quire­­ments of the author­­­ities of Berlin have been nothing unusual. All difficulties throughout the centuries could always be solved successfully. The institution’s innovative power is a clear proof and encourages us to face the tasks of the future.
Since the unification of all medical facilities of all the universities in town the Charité has become one of Europe’s biggest uni­­versity hospitals with 107 teaching hospitals and institutes in 17 Charité centres, as well as more than 13,000 employees and with 130,500 in-patient and 530,200 out-patient treatments. 5,700 surgeries as well as 700 transplantations and 5,800 births are carried through each year at the Charité – only a few examples of the manifold tasks of a hospital of maximum medical care. This makes the Charité a significant economic factor for Berlin and the capital region and an important driving force for medical in­­no­­vations. “Caring, scientific, entrepreneur­ial”, these are the characteristics of today’s Charité. This way it brings top research to the sickbed – for a self-determined life.

For the sake of a modern, integral medicine with a broad variety of genome-based, individualized medicine, the Charité wants to improve the research at universities in Berlin and discover new ways for diagnosis, prevention and therapy. As a training centre for about 7,300 students of human medicine and dentistry as well as for young nursing professionals, the Charité is highly committed to teaching and training. To ensure the scienti­fic excellence for the long term and to provide equal opportunities, numerous structured training pro­grammes like postgraduate lectures, post­graduate courses and positions for inde­pendent research by young colleagues (research grants, research professorships et ce­­tera)
are offered. This way the Charité has extended the typical German pro­ject-focused research funding with a strongly people-oriented approach.


In addition, the Charité is part of many international co-operation projects, which reach as far as China, Japan and the USA. Every year there are summer schools for students from all over the world.

The “Athens on the Spree” and city of health. Cities like Berlin still are hubs where new knowledge is created, connected with the various fields of research in an inter­­disciplinary way and then transformed into economic power and radiant cultural vigour. The metropolis of Berlin is such a hub and the Charité is one of the biggest and most important facilities in this city.

The scientific landscape and the cultural surroundings are the basis for continuously generating new concepts and ideas. The aspiration to be among the best centres of the world is very attractive to the young generation. Berlin lives on the sciences and as a science city, it has the obligation to commit itself to the political ideal of the enlightened reason and to contribute to an open and optimistic discussion about the future. It is necessary to develop visions that do not stop at national borders and are based on all areas of science, the natural sciences, humanities, arts and social sciences plus economics and politics.


The Charité will accept its role in this regard. It wants to accept responsibility, further the medical progress and make it available for everyone. It is supported by the most important university health centres in the world.


P9019614The author has been the chairman of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin since 2008. He was born in Munich in 1947, where he also studied medicine. After having gathered some experience in a medical practice and at a hospital and after having habilitated in 1986, Dr. Karl Max Einhäupl was offered the professor­ship for neuro­­logical intensive care. He is a member of the renowned German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina.