02 Aug 2010

Our recently published cost-effectiveness study on the use of CT in the assessment of patients with minor head injury has been added as an abstract to the NHS Economic Evaluation Database.

This publicly available database, covering studies in all languages published from 1994 onwards, contains structured abstracts of full economic evaluations. As well as a structured abstract, a critical appraisal of our study was made: “the study was well conducted (…) The authors’ conclusions appear to be robust”. Hurray!

16 Jul 2010

I have recently discovered Papers, a beautiful software package for Mac to organise my scientific papers: absolute heaven! I used to have lots of folders with downloaded pdf’s, named by subject and numbered according to my Endnote libraries so I could keep track of them, but of course I could never find anything in the end.

I am now in the process of importing all of these scattered pdf’s into one large Papers library. For an obsessively organised person like me, this process itself is already utter joy: I drag the pdf into Papers, click “match” and the programme then finds the metadata, places it in the library, and renames the pdf according to a standardised format. It all looks so neat! Oh, and it makes a really funky sound after a successful match :-)

So now they’re all together, I can organise my papers further into (smart) collections, tag them, mark them read/unread, flag them, etc. And I can still use Endnote for my bibliographies, which, for the time being at least, is needed for the work in progress. Basically, you can export any selection of Papers to an Endnote XML file (select “Endnote 8 or higher”), and then import into an Endnote library (be sure to select “Endnote Generated XML”). After having set the temporary delimiters to curly brackets in the Preferences section, you can then use Papers (or Endnote) to copy the selected papers as (Shift Command E) an Endnote citation into your text editor.

12 Nov 2009

Last week I organised the fMRI and DTI Hands-On Course on behalf of the European Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and Biology (ESMRMB) in Rotterdam. It was fun, but, man, I really wasn’t prepared for the immense amount of energy this would take.

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Mind you, the course was a success, due to the efforts of the excellent speakers and practical assistants. I really do hope that the participants realised how amazing it is to be able to listen to both Stefan Sunaert and Derek Jones on the same course - some of the best speakers in their field - and have so many highly expert faculty members around for 3 days to guide them through the basics of fMRI and DTI acquisition and data analysis.

This year was the first year for ESMRMB to organise these so-called hands-on courses, while already having a long-standing successful MRI teaching programme in the form of the School of MRI. The hands-on courses are specifically aimed at radiographers/technicians, but it seems there is also a need for hands-on courses among radiologists, physicists and PhD students, who also attended the course in Rotterdam and were equally enthusiastic.

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I do realise now why hands-on courses are so scarce and I have gained a huge respect for those organising such very practical courses (such as the FSL course). Not only because it’s such an awful lot of work, but also because there are so incredibly many things that can go wrong, which are entirely beyond your control - not at all compatible with my personality type!

But, it was fun, and the social programme… priceless ;-)

23 Oct 2009

I have recently entered the Female Career Development Programme, organised by my employer Erasmus MC. No doubt this programme has been inspired by the fact that only 7% of professors at Erasmus University are female; a percentage that is well below the national average (12%), which in turn is very low in comparison to the European average (19%). As the Netherlands aim for a national average of 25% by 2030, it seems time for drastic measures. The Female Career Development Programme, in my case.

I have to say, I was a bit sceptical about the whole thing. We’ve heard about the glass ceiling far too often already, and talked about it even more. Almost without exception, any meeting I’ve been to about female career development - or the lack thereof - very quickly descends from a reasonable discussion about facts and figures to a bitching session about our men never emptying the dishwasher and scattering dirty socks around the house. Extremely important topics, I agree, but much better discussed over cocktails with my girlfriends on a drunken night out.

So, after having been put forward by my boss, writing a long letter stating my fierce ambitions, and an excruciatingly slow selection procedure, I’m in. I was really dreading the glass ceiling discussion, yet again, and looked at my fellow female fiercely ambitious colleagues with suspicion, expecting a tirade about male nonchalance any moment.

But it was okay actually. We kicked off with a 2-day intensive programme during which we really got to know each other and talked about the many difficulties of combining clinical work with research, and, oh yes, a social life as well. But, no bitching, no complaining, no finger pointing, just practicing those difficult situations over and again to learn to deal with them.

The highlight was the final exercise: we wrote down our aims for the next meeting, and then passed them round to the others. So I ended up with a list of my aims, with lots of sweet and encouraging little notes, tips and comments written around them. Really, however ambitious we are, we still love those lovely little girlie things!

30 Apr 2009

Today is Queen’s Day in the Netherlands, the day when we celebrate the Queen’s birthday on the date of our previous Queen’s birthday. It is a happy day, with music festivals all over the country, flags everywhere and many people dressed in our national colour orange. To an outsider we must seem like an extremely monarchist and nationalist country, celebrating the Queen’s birthday so exuberantly, but I don’t think that’s really it. The beautiful thing about Queen’s Day is the fact that we can just be happy, together, without any particular reason. The Queen’s birthday is just a good excuse. It is very much like when winning the World Cup, but without the football and crucially, without a losing team. There are no enemies on Queen’s Day, no opposing groups or religious disagreements. In a time when worries about economic crisis, swine flu and terrorist attacks dominate our lives, this day of careless celebration seems all the more important.

And that’s why today’s events have been so shocking: a man drove his car at high speed through the celebrating crowds, presumably en route to attack the royal family who at that moment were passing through. Four people are dead, five severely injured and the nation is in mourning.

Like so many public events, Queen’s Day has now also lost its careless innocence and will probably never be the same again.

25 Jan 2009

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With so many changes in my life, buying a house, settling down in Rotterdam (yes, after almost 9 years I’m finally out of denial) it’s domestication all ‘round. So I’m cooking… this very tasty and very very simple pumpkin soup:

  1. Gently fry 1 large onion and 2 cloves of garlic in olive oil until soft but not coloured.
  2. Add 1 pumpkin (cut into smallish bits) and 1 red chili and fry for a few minutes stirring occasionally.
  3. Add enough water to cover.
  4. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes until the pumpkin is soft.
  5. Puree with a hand blender.
  6. Stir in 3-4 tbsp of yoghurt and salt to taste.
28 Dec 2008

What an excellent end of the year… last week I was granted a research fellowship by Erasmus University Rotterdam which will allow me to do research for the next four years! Read all about it on the Erasmus University web site (in Dutch).

I will be moving away from head injury and enter the exciting (oh, and very hot and trendy) field of dementia. This may seem like a big step, but really, it’s neurocognition, fMRI and DTI.. nothing new, just patients with cognitive disorders without having hit their head first.

So lots of money for more research time and less clinical work! Oh, and did I mention the huge mortgage for the most beautiful house in Rotterdam we just bought? ;-)

05 Oct 2008

I just got back from Valencia, Spain, where the weather was fantastic, the city beautiful and lively, and the food… hmm :-).

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Anyway, there was also a conference: the 25th annual meeting of the European Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine and Biology. I like this meeting, because it’s small, there are many people I know whom it is nice to catch up with, and it aims to bridge the gaps between the fundamental sciences and medicine. Unfortunately I’m not really capable of crossing these bridges, as my lack of knowledge and understanding of MRI becomes painfully clear within seconds of the start of most of the sessions…

So I stuck to the clinical sessions mostly, with many talks on MR spectroscopy, diffusion weighted and perfusion imaging.

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And I did venture into a few of the physics sessions… not sure it did me any good but maybe repeated exposure will make me at least a little bit less scared of acronyms. I’ll keep trying!

11 Sep 2008

Writing a paper is hard. Submitting a paper is a nightmare. Every journal has its own specific requirements: maximum number of words, reference style, statements to be included in random places in the manuscript, etcetera. Once you’ve done all this, there’s the online submission system to deal with, which demands all kinds of additional, hard to find information, as well as all of your co-authors’ work and home addresses, phone numbers, favourite colour, car they drive… But I’ve gotten used to all this, and am even getting over my submission phobia, which made me press the “no” button time and again when the system asked me “this finalises your submission - are you sure?”.

Anyway, you can imagine my sense of achievement when I pressed the “yes” button after a morning’s preparing the submission of my cost-effectiveness paper for the British Medical Journal. Happy to have it off my desk, I went to lunch… only to return to a message in my inbox from BMJ, regretting to have to reject my paper, sent a mere 85 minutes after submission! (yes, I had a very long lunch break) This is my saddest record ever.

To save the day, I submitted an abstract for the European Congress of Radiology, who will not inform me about their decision until November. Something achieved today after all.

06 Jul 2008

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I’ve finally descended from my pink cloud after receiving my PhD with distinction (!) last week and put some pictures online from the defence, dinner, and party (a slightly censored selection - don’t worry..). Some more party pics can be found on Egor’s site for which I deny all responsibility…