The new Head of the CERN Medical Service
John Wijnberg took up his new duties on 1 February, taking over from Véronique Fassnacht, who retired at the end of January. Of South African origin, Dr Wijnberg has followed a varied career since graduating in Medicine from Pretoria University in 1988. Much of his working life has been spent in Africa, with a decade in Gabon and four years in Tanzania, where he served in General Practice and as a specialist in Occupational Health and Safety for large companies such as Shell. His interest in these aspects of the field led him to take a Master’s degree in Public Health and Tropical Medicine at James Cook University in Australia, and an occupational health diploma at the University of London.
CERN is a new departure for Dr Wijnberg. “I didn’t know much about particle physics before I got here,” he says “but I really like the free spirit and cosmopolitan university atmosphere of the place.” Once he has his feet firmly under the desk, Dr Wijnberg has ambitions to bring his occupational health experience to bear. One of his first actions will be to carry out a health audit to see where we are and to set priorities. “I’d also like to look at how health risk assessment is done at CERN,” he says. “At the end of the day, our job is to help the physicists to do theirs, and staying healthy is a big contribution to that.”
One more thing. Our new Doctor is a person of surprising talents: he’s also a children’s author having published a book entitled “The old man and the fat ginger cat”, which uses the relationship of its two main protagonists as a way to explore a range of ethical questions. “My aim with the book is to encourage a sense of perspective from a young age,” he explains. In other words, it’s a vehicle to encourage a culture of wellbeing among the young!