Award for “bridge builder” Professor Ferdinand Gerlach

Every two years, the award, which includes a cash prize of € 10,000, is presented to Goethe University professors that are also active members of influential scientific or political organisations. The award money is to be invested in realising and facilitating projects and assignments that the special commitments of the award-winners prevent from finding the time to work on themselves.

Professor Gerlach has been committed to improving health care services in Germany for many years. At the award ceremony on 25th February, University President Birgitta Wolf thanked him for providing high-quality science-based political consulting services in an era of “fake news”. This also supports one of the university’s central objectives: to improve society through the results of its research. Vice President Manfred Schubert-Zsilavecz described Gerlach as Goethe University’s “model professor” and the “most important general practitioner in Germany”.

In his speech at the award ceremony, Professor Christoph Straub, Chairman of the Board of the BARMER health insurer, praised Gerlach’s long-time commitment to continuous quality improvement and the employment of evidence-based medicine in medical practice. As early as 1993, Gerlach developed ideas to improve the medical quality assurance process, and implemented quality compasses for family practitioners. In 2004, he devised the internet platform “Every-Mistake-Counts,” which enables general practices to anonymously report mistakes that others can learn from.

Ferdinand Gerlach was an early advocate of evidence-based medicine. He initiated the development of guidelines for general practice, a concept subsequently adopted in other medical fields. His areas of focus also include epidemiology in public health practice, digitalisation in the health sector, patient safety, healthcare for the chronically ill, and health services research. He has established three additional chairs for these special fields at the Institute of General Practice, as well as an endowed chair for polypharmacy and health services research from 1st March.

With his appointment as chair of the German Council of Health Advisors, Gerlach went from “the first family physician in the country to generalist and navigator of the health care sector,” said Straub. With his affable, thoughtful and unassuming demeanour, he is the “gentleman of political consulting,” yet he can also be tough and assertive, particularly when it concerns the accurate presentation of scientific issues. While this does not always make working with him easy, it is a successful formula. For example, the German government has only recently adopted many of the Council’s recommendations on emergency care.

Gerlach has also worked in various way to improve teaching and education in his field. His project “Landpartie” (country outing) encourages students to complete the practical part of their medical studies in rural practices, and thus helps to tackle the prevailing shortage of doctors in rural regions. He further organised a high-calibre lecture series to raise student awareness of diagnostic and therapeutic overtreatment, at which Eckhard von Hirschhausen spoke about the healing power of humour.

Brief Vita:
Professor Ferdinand M. Gerlach, MPH, studied human medicine in Göttingen and received his doctorate in 1987. He concluded his specialty training in general practice in 1992, and completed a post-graduate degree in Public Health with a focus on “Management in the Health Sector” at the Medical University in Hanover at the same time. Before his appointment to Goethe University in 2004, he was Professor of General Practice at the University of Kiel. In addition to various positions in national and international committees and organisations, he was president of the DEGAM (German College of General Practitioners and Family Physicians) from 2010 to 2016.

Numerous scientific awards attest to his excellent work. These include the Hessen Higher Education Prize for Excellence in Teaching) (2017), Award of the Saxony Society for General Practice (2017), German Research Award for General Practice (2008), Richard Merten Award for Quality Assurance in the Health Sector (2005), Berlin Health Award (2002), German Health Award for ‘Innovation in the Health Sector’ (1999) and the Health Sciences Award (1994).

Further information: Professor Ferdinand Gerlach, Master of Public Health, Institute of General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel. (069) 6301-5687,

An image may be downloaded here:
Caption: University President Professor Birgitta Wolff, Professor Ferdinand Gerlach und his wife, Professor Heike Schnoor, Award ceremony speaker Professor Christoph Straub.
Credit: Benjamin André

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Goethe University is a research-oriented university in the European financial centre Frankfurt am Main, The university was founded in 1914 through private funding, primarily from Jewish sponsors, and has since produced pioneering achievements in the areas of social sciences, sociology and economics, medicine, quantum physics, brain research, and labour law. It gained a unique level of autonomy on 1 January 2008 by returning to its historic roots as a „foundation university“. Today, it is one of the three largest universities in Germany. Together with the Technical University of Darmstadt and the University of Mainz, it acts as a partner of the inter-state strategic Rhine-Main University Alliance. Internet:

Publisher: The President of Goethe University Editor: Dr. Anne Hardy, Science Editor, PR & Communications Department, Theodor-W.-Adorno-Platz 1, 60323 Frankfurt am Main, Tel: (069) 798-13035, Fax: (069) 798-763 12531.

contact for scientific information:
Professor Ferdinand Gerlach, Master of Public Health, Institute of General Practice, Faculty of Medicine, Niederrad Campus, Tel. (069) 6301-5687,

original publication:

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