Eugen Trinka, in Salzburg, is Austria’s very own luminary authority when it comes to matters of the brain. His knowledge and insights into the cure of migraines, epilepsy, stroke, dementia, and multiple sclerosis are sought after at conferences all over the world.
As chair of the neurology department at the city’s medical university and president of the Austrian Society of Epilepsy, Dr. Trinka often brings the elites of his field to Salzburg as well. In our interview with him, the one-time sports star appeals to the powers that be in his hometown and asks them to continue to develop the competitive advantages this city enjoys as a venue for conferences and other important events.
Looking at Eugen Trinka, one sees a man that radiates high quality standards. Sophisticated and stately in appearance and manner, clear and forthright in his speech – you can tell from the first second you meet him.
In his interview with #meetSalzburg, this worldwide authority in the field of neurology immediately opens up to us about the dilemma he faces: “Salzburg has a lot of potential as a venue for conferences and the like among people in my field. Everyone knows that it’s the city of Mozart, and that it’s an absolutely beautiful place. But I have a hard time organizing events of this kind, which for us usually means attracting over a thousand people, to come here,” says Trinka, who is also director of the university clinic and dean of clinical affairs at Salzburg’s Paracelsus Medical University. In his view, the solution would be a larger, centrally located convention centre associated with a first-rate hotel. Trinka – who is also president of the Austrian Society of Neurology and the European League Against Epilepsy – suggests the possibility of expanding the facilities for holding events at the university and the clinic. “Salzburg is my favourite place to hold my national epilepsy congresses. The central location and the ambience here make it preferable to Vienna,” according to Trinka.
What the neurologist-cum-psychiatrist does not add is that it’s thanks to his work that Salzburg is considered the international capital of epilepsy research. This neurological disorder, once referred to as the “falling sickness” is Trinka’s primary area of research, which accounts for a considerable portion of his 430 scientific publications and more than 5,000 citations. The neurologist has also made quite a name for himself on other issues pertaining to the brain, including stroke, dementia, multiple sclerosis, and migraines. Invitations to give guest lectures all over the world and routine distinctions in Europe and the US are testament to his expertise in areas affecting more than one third of humanity. After heart disease, stroke is the number two cause of death worldwide.
Born on October 19, 1963, Eugen Trinka was by no means destined for this career from the start. His mother was a teacher, and he grew up in an apartment in Salzburg without running water. His forebears came from all over the old Austro-Hungarian Empire. “I’m a mongrel of the Dual Monarchy”, says the Salzburg native with a Czech surname. Much of this has shaped his personality: The grandfather he holds in particularly high regard was an engineer who spent time in a concentration camp for helping people flee the Nazi regime. His biological father is a sculptor and art restorer. These two could be where he got his creative spirit and intrepid nature from. One of his grandmothers was a psychiatric nurse in Vienna, and his mother may have imbued him with a sense of elegance and a knack for teaching.
Despite his family’s poverty, little Eugen managed to get into Salzburg’s prestigious secondary school, the Akademisches Gymnasium. “Other kids there wore the latest fashions and had nice shoes – but not me,” he recalls. But Eugen Trinka graduated with honours. He was also a model athlete – his records in the hundred meter (11.2 seconds), high jump (two meters), and the long jump (seven meters) won him first place. It also helped make him a fighter: “I tough it out, don’t give up so easily,” he claims.
His interest in medical issues of the brain really developed when he was in high school. “I was fascinated with the way our memory works,” says Trinka. He also had a penchant for history. He moved to Vienna to study at the Medical University, where he tackled a number of challenges: studying medicine, making money, and being a dad – Eugen Trinka was 22 years old when his son Matthias was born. He now works in Berlin as a professional event manager, attracting popular acts like Austrian rock band Bilderbuch. Listening to his father, you can hear how proud he is. Despite all the stress he found himself under, he himself graduated on time, becoming the first doctor in his family.
Still, what he really needed to do was make a living. And so, the newly-minted doctor took a position as a nurse in the small town of Schladming. There, he was the go-to for just about everything, and better paid than most young doctors to boot. Dr. Trinka poured himself into the next steps in his career path as well, sailing through his training as both a neurologist and a psychiatrist. In 1998, he went to Montreal, Canada to work with epilepsy guru Fredrick Andermann. In 1999, he followed his calling as a neurologist to the clinic at Innsbruck University Hospital, where he was to quickly become head of epilepsy monitoring. In that time, he also earned a degree in health administration. “If you’re going to be running a hospital, you need to be a skilled doctor, but you also need to be sensitive to matters of policy when it comes to healthcare,” Trinka is convinced. The university clinic in Innsbruck is also where he met his wife, herself a neurologist; and like her husband, she now works at the Christian Doppler Clinic in Salzburg. Trinka and his wife have two school age children.
Digging deeper into Eugen Trinka, beyond the doctor, the scientist, the clinic director is quite astonishing. At home, his passion is gourmet cooking and fine dining. “My favourite place to be is at home, in front of the stove,” he confides. The astonishing thing is not just the image of Trinka cooking in an apron, but also that he manages to stay thin. “It’s all in the head,” is all he lets on. He’s hosted as many as 30 people, and cooks in styles ranging from traditional Austrian to French. But he wakes up every day at 5:30, not matter how lavish the evening was. At times, you may come across him taking a stroll through Salzburg’s old town, on the Mönchsberg or along the shore of the Leopoldskroner Weiher. And when he heads out in his classic Jaguar, his favourite destinations are the nearby lakes Mattsee and Wallersee. “I always find myself saying, ‘Oh man, isn't Salzburg beautiful!’”