by Gian Luigi Lenzi
Not many weeks ago, here in Rome, a particular “retirement” made (and is still making) a lot of rumours and consequences. Away from this HOLY fact and down to my academic perspective I considered my own retirement, scheduled October 31, 2013, and how I was longing for more freedom from daily duties, boring committees, brainless authorities, to be, after 52 years of work, my own boss. And I decided to pose some question related to retirement to a few colleagues (as well as to myself) who as I knew were near to retiring or had already done so.
Here I would like to report the first answers to the three questions, were as follows:
2) PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE
The answers from Jacques De Reuck and me were quite short and simple.
The answers from Werner Hacke and Marie-Germaine Bousser are more articulated and complex.
What are the rules and the general attitudes for the “academic retirement” in your country?
Werner Hacke: The rules and the general attitude for academic retirement in Germany vary from state to state. Most recently several states have implemented a new policy, which goes in line with the overall increase of retirement age in Germany. Outside academic institutions there will be a gradual increase of retirement age from 65 to 67 over the next 20 years, meaning that from birth years of 1948 onwards with every additional birth year one will have to work one additional working month, meaning that someone born in 1955 will retire at 65 years and 7 months. For academic positions, specifically full professors, the ministries of science and education of several states have created the following new rule.
Basically, the retirement age of professors remains at 65. However, if the individual expresses his/her wish to work 3 years longer, the medical faculty is obliged to fulfil this application, unless very important reasons (health) speak against it. After the 3 year prolongation the professor is allowed to ask for one or two additional years, which the faculty will have to evaluate and come up with a proposal to the ministry whether this application should be satisfied or not.
It should be kept in mind that in Germany there is no partial retirement. Once the chairman of a department steps down, he is not allowed to work any longer in the department. He cannot see patients, he cannot do rounds, he is not included into any decision making anymore. He may be allowed to do some teaching and some research. In many instances, professors emeriti may have a room in the university at their disposal, but this is up to a new chair of the department and not something that is guaranteed.
Marie-Germaine Bousser: In France at the moment the mandatory age of retirement as head of department is 65 years, but you are allowed, (under some conditions which are more and more difficult to satisfy) to go on teaching students at the faculty and to see patients in your hospital (if your successor also agrees). You should no longer be involved in the department administration. After these 3 years during which you keep your salary you are officially retired. You may, if you wish, and if both the hospital administration and your successor agree, keep some outpatient’s sessions; you may also go into private practice outside the hospital.
Jacques L. de Reuck: I am already retired from my academic position for 5 years, at the age of 65 years. As doctor you can maintain a partial activity in the hospital for 3 years. As emeritus-professor you are invited to all official manifestations of the university.
Gian Luigi Lenzi: At 70 years of age, in Italy, university professors retire. They may stay as “Emeritus” for five more years, but, in Medical Schools, they cannot perform assistantial duties.
What is your personal perspective about your retirement?
Werner Hacke: For me the retirement perspective is a little bit different. After I turn 65 in March 2013, I will stay in office for another 1 ½ year. Thereafter I will hand over the leadership of the Department of Neurology to my successor, who is already elected. The medical faculty of the University of Heidelberg has decided to honour me with a “Senior Professorship”, which is a new and up to now rarely used instrument of keeping still active professors linked and associated to the University and the Medical School. This Senior Professorship will be given to me for three years. It comes with privileges like rooms, secretarial assistance, and a little bit of additional salary. This means, from October 2014 on, I will still be member of the Heidelberg Medical School, but not Chair of Neurology anymore. I will enjoy the new position as a Senior Professor with a lot of rights and only a few duties.
Marie-Germaine Bousser: For me, I was fed up with administrative tasks already 1 or 2 years before I got 65, particularly because the spirit of public hospitals had changed; (we were asked to make money!!!)
Jacques De Reuck: I personally wanted a new challenge: so I have research activities as well as some teaching at the CHRU Lille and the Lille 2 University. I am member of the scientific council of the university.
Gian Luigi Lenzi: I will completely retire from hospital work and duties, but I will go on with my private clinics, looking for a place in some non-profit institution (Church?) to offer my capabilities to patients unable to support a fee. In the meantime I will involve myself in the family business of making wine and olive oil, trying to develop a resort in my home place. Finally, walking back-pack through Italy and elsewhere will help me to keep fit.
What will be your suggestions for academics/ professionals approaching retirement?
Werner Hacke: In our European system it is difficult to follow the American model, where a Chairman simply steps down from the chair of a department, but stays active as a professor with a certain area of expertise, sees patients, continues research and teaching. I find it a real waste of talent to call 65 or 68 the end of the term. There should be methods that allow a transition from the full work load of a professor and chair to the activities of a still interested and highly qualified member of the faculty who for example works part time, is strongly involved in teaching, works on expert opinion, helps with writing papers and grants, and is someone who can be asked for expert advice outside the hectic atmosphere of the regular business of the hospital. A transition period over 3 or 5 years, with pension payment and some additional financial compensation for the time spend working for the department and the medical school would lead to a better type of retirement for highly qualified professionals. The Senior Professorship that my Medical School has offered is a right step and can be used exactly in the way that I tried to describe above.
Marie-Germaine Bousser: I am afraid to disappoint you, but I do think that retirement is a very personal business! Some prefer to do something completely different, others (like me) are happy to continue to see patients and to teach, but not at the same rhythm! I would favour a more flexible system than the French one, allowing you to continue if you (and the others) feel that you are still OK!
Jacques De Reuck: Look for a new activity!
Gian Luigi Lenzi: Begin as early as possible before retirement to develop hobbies, to cultivate friendships. In Italy we use to say that people who do not know how to play card games are destined to remain alone in old age: “invecchia solo chi non gioca a carte”. This could be one of the solutions, but please remember that it is better to have many solutions than cultivate monomaniacally only one.
Werner Hacke is Professor of Neurologoy at the Department of Neurology, University Hospital Heidelberg, Germany
Marie-Germaine Bousser is Professor of Neurology at the Department of Neurology, CHU Lariboisière in Paris, France
Jacques L. De Reuck is Professor of Neurology at the Department of Neurology, Ghent University Hospital in Ghent, Belgium and Past President of the EFNS.
Gian Luigi Lenzi is Professor of Neurology at the Department of Neurology & Psychiatry at “La Sapienza” Università di Roma, Italy. He is Vice President of the EFNS and Editor-in-chief of Neuropenews.