germany, roche, careers, medical affairs

Physician stand-in as part-time job: Door into the practice

At Roche I can live out my need for diversity.
Klaus Finzler, Medical Therapeutic Area Lead Roche Pharma AG in Grenzach

At 28 you started comparatively late studying medicine, and you were previously occupied in press and public relations work. How did it come to you rethinking?

At that time I considered what I would like to do for the next thirty years. I was looking for something that made sense to me. I also liked my former job but I wanted to work on something that was sustainable. This is fulfilled when I help people with my knowledge in situations where they cannot help themselves. This is something e.g. that lawyers do, but also doctors: As physician I have the possibility of relieving a person from an internal threat, as lawyer from an external threat. I then decided in favour of medicine.

Can you explain this?

A person who for example suffers from a malignant disease can often only help himself in a limited way. He needs someone to help him understand his illness and the medical circumstances and procedures relating to it, to undertake decisions and someone who then also implements these decisions. I found this task exciting.

Later you worked as specialist and medical CEO of a Comprehensive Cancer Center at an oncological clinic. Today you are medical lead in the haematology franchise at Roche. Is this just as helpful?

Yes, absolutely. Today I help more people than ever before. In the Medical Affairs area I can move a lot more than at the patient bedside, because through my work I reach distinctly more patients. And that was why I started to study medicine at all.

But you did not want to say goodbye to the patient bedside entirely

… That is why I worked as a general practitioner stand-in for a week last summer. I simply felt the need to once again be in direct contact with patients.


With the patient treatment I received direct feedback about what I am doing. For this the patient doesn't even need to talk. I like my profession as medical lead very much, but in my everyday work I do not always experience so directly how in the end my work is helpful for the patient.

How did the stand-in go?

I am registered with the stand-in exchange of the Association of statutory health insurance physicians. Seasonal enquiries for practice or vacation stand-ins are posted there. I simply applied and then worked for a few hours daily at the practice. So for example I also didn't need to take whole days off.

Were you nervous in advance that you may have forgotten something?

I did have this fear but it turned out to be completely untenable. Everything was there again directly on the first day. Especially in difficult cases the automatic responses trained for especially critical cases immediately come into play. One never forgets the ability to initiate the right steps quickly.

What conclusion did you draw after this experience?

I would do it again any time.

Why do you nevertheless prefer to remain medical lead?

As long as I have the possibility of doing both then I would like to do both. That is my need for diversity and fortunately I can live this out at Roche. But I do not want to miss the strategic aspects of my profession.
Before Roche I was the medical CEO of an oncological centre and had the task of developing an interacting system out of the separate units of the hospital and making it functional. As it was finally ready an "architect" was no longer necessary, but only an operator and from the development perspective this was not enough for me. At Roche new and in addition more numerous perspectives were opened and I decided for the change.

Tags: Germany, Career Blog