When talking about his life, Christof will be quick to tell you that he counts his parents among his biggest influences. This may seem fairly obvious to those who know that his father is Professor Christian Gerber, a high-profile orthopaedic surgeon and medical teacher of international renown who also happens to be the Chairman of Bonebridge’s Board of Directors. But you may be surprised to learn that pursuing a career in orthopaedic trauma was not what drove Christof early on in his life.
First and foremost, Christof says, his parents instilled a sense of curiosity in him. “I have always been interested in many different things. As a kid, I used to bombard my mother with questions, and she patiently answered each one of them,” he recalls. One of the first fascinations he developed was for airplanes and flying – a passion he later managed to turn into a job: Christof started his professional career as a commercial pilot, undergoing training at Swissair’s (now Swiss International Air Lines) aviation school. However, early on in the program, Christof decided that getting a university degree would equip him with a solid foundation for his future professional development. He thus enrolled at the University of Zurich to pursue a Master’s degree in economics and wrapped up his aviation training in parallel, just in time before Swissair famously grounded its fleet in 2001.
But the airline’s downfall did not keep Christof from flying: He continued to regularly co-pilot corporate planes until graduating from the school of economics. From 2003 to 2004, he briefly worked as a financial analyst for a Swiss asset management company. It was after this stint in the financial sector that he decided to pursue full-time medical studies. “I had always been very interested in medicine,” Christof says. “And at that point I was becoming more and more intrigued with the interface between medicine and economics, and that was something I wanted to explore further.”
In spite of the heavy workload of medical school, Christof continued to fly corporate planes all over Europe, spending an average of two days a week shuffling executives and celebrities from one place to the next. “A very nice side hustle for a student,” he admits with a grin. Christof spent the last year of medical school in the United States, primarily at the University of Washington’s Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. At Harborview, he worked under Professor Milton Lee (Chip) Routt, an icon of orthopaedic trauma. “I was twenty-nine at the time, and he definitely became an important role model for me,” Christof says.
Speaking of role models, there is yet another man who has had a profound influence on Christof: Ernst Thomke, the mastermind behind Swatch, the world-famous Swiss watch. A chemist and physician, he made a career out of restructuring the Swiss watch industry and became one of the most renowned industrialists in the country. The two men originally bonded over their passion for flying and airplanes and became longtime friends. “Also, Ernst turned me on to yet another passion of mine: sailing,” Christof says. In 2007, he had the opportunity to join Ernst Thomke on a sailing trip from San Remo, Italy to Sydney, Australia – an (almost) around-the-world trip that left him with a wealth of experiences and new impressions. When asked whether one of the places he visited particularly stuck with him, he is quick to respond: “Palmerston Island – a coral atoll in the Cook Islands that can only be reached by boat. It’s a fascinating place with an interesting history: All 60+ inhabitants share the same lineage and thus the same last name, and their main industry is parrot fishing.”
After his year-long sailing adventure, he completed his post-graduate medical training in anesthesiology and emergency medicine in Switzerland and subsequently took up work as an anesthesiologist at different Swiss hospitals. It was during those intense years in the OR that Christof first started to contemplate the “reducing complexity” concept that would later become the foundation for Bonebridge. “It seemed to me that in order to advance orthopaedic trauma, a shift was needed – to a less complex, more intuitive system of plates, screws, and instruments.” The idea matured further in his mind over the next few years, while he was freelancing as an emergency physician for Rega, the Swiss Air Rescue non-profit organization. To this day, he speaks very fondly of his time as an emergency physician on the Rega helicopter. Many of his experiences in the field even made their way into a book, which has become a standard reference in the training of pre-clinical emergency physicians in Switzerland.
In fact, Christof continued to freelance for Rega even after he had founded Bonebridge; but these days, managing the company obviously takes up all his time – especially now that it has grown beyond borders. “With our market entry in the USA last year, we went from a small Swiss start-up to an international operation,” Christof says. “It’s a challenging and demanding time, for sure, but it’s also very gratifying to be able to reconnect with my former colleagues abroad.” To balance his busy workdays, Christof likes to wind down with his family: his wife Tamara, an anesthesiologist whom he met at work in 2014, and their five-year-old son Matteo. Like your prototypical Swiss family, they like to spend their spare time outdoors, Christof says – either skiing in the Swiss alps in the colder season, or swimming in the countless lakes and rivers in the summer.