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Researchers in action

Our team comprises the best in the ‘business’ – the knowledge and experience of experts in the field of Plastic- and Hand Surgery serves as a sturdy foundation for the research of excellence. This includes input and hard work from Chief – and senior physicians, consultants, assistant doctors as well as resident doctors. The ultimate aim is to provide innovative solutions to optimize surgical procedures and provide alternative treatment methods and techniques to ultimately provide the best possible outcome for every single patient. ​

This is Us

Board of Trustees

Prof. Dr. med A.O. Grobbelaar: Chairman. Consultant Plastic Surgeon Inselspital Bern Switzerland and Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children London UK, Professor University College London: Division of Surgery and Interventional Science and Associated Professor Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery, Bern University

Prof. Dr. med  M.A. Constantinescu: Deputy Chairman. Prof and Co-Director Department of Plastic Surgery Inselspital Bern and the University of Bern

Prof Dr. med E. Vögelin: Treasurer. Prof and Co-Director Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery Inselspital Bern and University of Bern

Prof. J.I. Leckenby : Member. Professor of Plastic Surgery University of Rochester Upstate New York

Prof. N.W. Bulstrode: Member. Consultant Plastic Surgeon Great Ormond Hospital for Sick Children and Honorary Professor University College London

The Team

Prof Dr med. E. Vögelin

Prof. Dr. med. Esther Vögelin

Chief Physician & Co-Director of Hand Surgery

Hand surgery at the Inselspital is a university center in which the entire Hand Surgery, Surgery of the Peripheral Nervous system, including Plexus Surgery and Replantation/Revascularization Surgery of the upper extremities are covered. I created the current department of Hand Surgery. The department for Hand Surgery was departmentally combined with the clinic for Orthopedic Surgery and the Department for Plastic Surgery. It has been integrated with other departments dealing with muscular-skeletal disorders since January 2021. Hand and Peripheral Nerve Surgery are also closely linked to a neurological department, Rheumatology and Pediatric surgery, which significantly expands the range of conditions we treat. There are special consultation hours (pediatric hand malformations, angiodysplasia board and sarcoma board). All simple and complex emergencies of adults, as well as elective referrals of patients with simple or more complex issues are assessed and treated.  Hand Surgery and hand therapy are integrated in the management of the patient pain management services.

Prpf. Dr. med. M. Constantinescu

Prof. Dr. med. Mihai Constantinescu 

Chief Physician & Co-Director Plastic Surgery

I have a joint appointment between the Inselspital and the University of Bern.  Ever since my research days at the Massachusetts  General Hospital in Boston, USA, I have maintained a keen research interest.  In addition, I am not only responsible for postgraduate research, but also for undergraduate Plastic Surgery research education and training of medical students. 

Prof. Dr. med. Adriaan Grobbelaar

Prof. Dr. med. Adriaan Grobbelaar

Consultant - Plastic Surgery

I have covered many areas of reconstructive surgery during my career, from skin cancer to hand surgery to facial re-animation surgery. My primary interest in research has always been finding ways to improve outcomes for patients in the short and medium term. Currently, we are working on improving patient information before surgery and investigating various techniques that will make smile surgery more predictable and reduce possible complications.

Prof. Dr. Grant Robinson

Prof. Dr. Grant Robinson

Chief Scientific Supervisor

The main focus of my neuroscience research has been to better understand the rules governing regeneration possibilities in both the central and peripheral nervous systems.  To do this, I have used cellular and molecular systems, and behavioral approaches to study the recovery of injured neurons in the spinal cord and in the visual system.  My current research interests are to optimize nerve grafts for transplantation from one individual to another without triggering the recipient's immune system, and to determine whether the previous neural information carried by a graft matters if it is later used to repair a defect. 

PD. Dr. med. Ioana Lese

PD. Dr. med. Ioana Lese

Consultant - Plastic Surgery

My main research interests focus on improving patient counseling before complex surgeries and adapting the reconstructive plan when needed,  as well as identifying the optimal type of nerve graft in facial palsy patients where a free functional muscle transfer is needed in order to reanimate the face. During the last number of years, I have also been actively involved in finding a solution for the treatment of seroma, an accumulation of fluid after major surgeries, mostly through the application of inorganic nanoparticles. An important part of my research also concentrates on implementing new radiation-free techniques for the detection of lymph nodes in malignant melanoma, a very frequent type of skin cancer. 

Dr. med. Damian Sutter 

Dr. med. Damian Sutter 

Consultant - Hand Surgery

My research experience has been in the vascularized composite allograft, focusing on in-situ immunosuppression. Recent developments in tissue decellularization open new paths for allotransplantation without the risk of graft rejection. In my clinical duties in micro- and peripheral nerve surgery, options for the treatment of large nerve defects are limited. The prospect of vascularized nerve allografts that don’t trigger the recipient’s immune system drives my research interest.

Dr. med R Lietchi.jpg

Dr. med. Rémy Liechti

Consultant - Hand and Peripheral Nerve Surgery

Since I first began working in the field of peripheral nerve surgery, I have been fascinated by the ever-growing surgical possibilities to enable neuromuscular and neurosensory regeneration through microsurgical nerve repair, reconstruction, and transfer techniques. To improve the outcomes of peripheral nerve surgery, advancing our understanding of the complex cellular and molecular processes involved in axonal regeneration is essential to develop new treatment strategies. In collaboration with the Leckenby Lab at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) in Rochester, New York, my basic research focuses on exploring the functional, electrophysiologic and histologic differences in axonal regeneration between brainstem and spinal motoneurons following peripheral axon injury. A particular emphasis is placed on examining neuromuscular regeneration through autologous and decellularized allografts. Another specific area of research interest for me involves high-resolution ultrasound as a diagnostic tool for the evaluation of peripheral neuropathies, nerve injuries and the quantitative assessment of denervated muscle tissue.

Dr. med. Cedric Zubler

Dr. med. Cedric Zubler

Resident - Plastic Surgery

I am interested in research and becoming a plastic surgeon.  Complex defects involving skin, muscle, bone and/or nerves can arise after severe accidents and burns or as part of congenital anomalies. Fortunately, free tissue transplantation allows us to offer many of these patients a functional reconstruction. Understanding and mapping the perfusion of these tissue transfers is key to their success. Therefore, the majority of my research is focused on high-resolution imaging of the microvascular anatomy, as well as analysis of clinical risk factors associated with free flap transfers, in an effort to make these complex reconstructions more reliable and safer for the patient.

Foto Njima Schläpfer.jpg

Dr. med. Njima Schläpfer

Resident – Otolaryngology

Throughout my training in Otolaryngology, I encountered facial nerve pathologies like Bell's palsy, as well as traumatic or iatrogenic injuries to the facial nerve during ear or tumor surgery. I developed an understanding of the resulting long-term impairments of this pathology in daily living, which carry significant functional and psychological implications for the affected individuals. Therefore, ensuring the functionality restoration of the facial nerve whenever possible is of paramount importance. The exposure to the management of facial nerve transection like microsurgical reconstruction via direct nerve repair, reconstruction and transfer techniques has cultivated a keen interest in this field. Treating facial nerve defects requires bridging with autologous nerve grafts or local nerve transfers, which can result in complications at the donor site in addition to the facial paralysis. I'm keen to explore alternative surgical treatment approaches, such as reconstruction with decellularized nerve allografts, to provide a beneficial option, reducing these burdens for patients suffering from facial nerve palsy.

Dr. med. Isabel Arenas Hoyos

Dr. med. Isabel Arenas Hoyos

Research Assistant

I am originally from Colombia, now living in Bern. I’m in my 4th year of my MD-PhD at the Department for BioMedical Research from the University of Bern and the Department for Hand and Plastic Surgery from Inselspital. As an MD-PhD Student currently working on drug delivery systems in vascularized composite allotransplantation and its immunologic features, I am seeking to extend my knowledge in the field of transplantation immunology and reconstructive orthoplastic surgery, apply my skills of analytical thinking, methodical work, and teamwork, and exercise my curiosity and solution-oriented thinking.

Additional information about the surgeons and researchers as well as a list of articles written within the Department of Plastic and Hand Surgery

1.For more detailed information about the team, click the following link

2.For a list of research articles written by the team and members of the Department, click on the following link: BORIS (

Old town, Bern
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