Q: What is your area of research and why does it interest you?
A: My research is on prodromal multiple sclerosis (MS) under supervision of Prof Helen Tremlett, Canada Research Chair in Neuroepidemiology and Multiple Sclerosis. Using health administrative and clinical data from four Canadian provinces, I am looking for early signs or symptoms that develop before the onset of ‘classic’ MS symptoms that lead up to a diagnosis. Some patients navigate the health care system for years seeking explanations for their diverse symptomatology. This can take a heavy toll on the emotional and physical well-being of the patient and on the health care system.
The identification of a prodromal period in MS could help establish an earlier recognition of the disease and may offer opportunities for an earlier treatment. Early treatment with disease modifying drugs may improve the prognosis of people living with MS. I am interested in MS research because it is a challenging and rapidly evolving field of enquiry. The complexity of it fascinates me and there is still so much to learn.
Q: What’s the best advice you’ve received in your career?
A: Always think positively! You have to be convinced that your research is meaningful and going to succeed. Positive thinking also helps you to overcome setbacks such as a rejected fellowship application or a failed experiment. Get back on the horse and try again.
Q: What has been your proudest achievement so far?
A:Without any doubt, gaining my PhD. I have encountered many challenges along the way, but through hard work, a dose of optimism, and dedication I managed to complete it. Looking back, it was a great experience that has left me with a large set of transferable skills, including critical thinking, time management, data analysis and communication skills.
Q: What would you be doing if you weren’t a researcher?
A:I would probably be a medical doctor. I have always been passionate about medical care and the idea of making a direct positive impact on people’s lives really appeals to me.
Q: What do you like to do when you’re not at work?
A: Being Dutch, I love to cycle. So, when I am not at work and it is a sunny day you will probably find me cycling around Stanley Park on the beautiful Seawall. That said, I still have to get used to the abundant hills, lycra shorts and helmets here. Vancouver has a bicycle culture that is very different from what I am used to in the Dutch culture.
Q: What’s your healthiest habit?
A: My Italian partner introduced me to the traditional Mediterranean diet with lots of fruit and vegetables, nuts, fish, and olive oil. Not only is it very healthy, it also has some of the most delicious foods. One of the perks of this eating pattern that I like the most is that it occasionally includes a glass of wine.