23 Jun 2008

With our hospital being an ever-changing building site, it may be tricky to find your way to the site of my PhD defence, so here’s some directions:

  1. Take entrance 3 “Sophia/Faculteit” (see map below)
  2. Take the elevator to floor 3
  3. Follow signs to “Faculteitsgebouw” (over a bridge)
  4. Look for (and follow!) red signs “Promotie” or “Collegezaal 7”

Directions

If you get lost, ring one of my “paranimfs”

  • Fleur 0628124014
  • Gavin 0646017283

Please note that the estimated walking time from the entrance to the defence is 10 mins (and that the defence starts 1.45pm sharp).

25 May 2008

I am not a very practical person. I am aware of this, but somehow I forget at crucial moments, such as last week when the 900 copies of my thesis arrived from the printer’s.

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Having been delivered to the point the furthest away from my office in the hospital possible, they just needed to be loaded on a trolley and wheeled to my office. Doesn’t seem too complicated, right? That’s why I felt fairly stupid checking there were any brakes on the wheels of the trolley I just loaded the 40+ boxes on (there weren’t), but even more stupid realising I was not going to be able to move the trolley, especially not wearing my high-heeled, smooth-soled shoes… At least I provided some entertainment for the people in the corridors I passed (well, who passed me and my trolley, really). A pleading and very desperate phone call for help was required…

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But now the thesis has been sent off, the misery is easily forgotten with compliments pouring in :-). This is what it’s all about then - lots and lots of positive attention, yum!

17 May 2008

I am going to be a better doctor, I have decided. A bit late for my New Year’s resolution, I agree, but better late then never.

Two things have led to this decision. One, I’ve just had a week’s holiday, so I can finally think a bit more clearly. (I’ve also just noticed that it’s spring and that there are leaves on trees; when did that happen?) Two, I read the book “Better” by Atul Gawande. At the risk of sounding really pathetic and promoting self-help books (which this isn’t, by the way), I have to say that this book is a real inspiration, and I strongly recommend it to anyone, particularly those working in health care. It is a collection of stories about doctors achieving more than usual. And not because they’re bettter at the politics and dirty tricks to get ahead in the ultra-hierarchical world of medicine, but just because they’re fighting, trying as hard as they can, and a bit more.

Lately, I have become really frustrated with working in a (university) hospital. The masses of paperwork and thick walls of bureaucracy make it seemingly impossible to change even the smallest things. Not to mention the beeper that never stops beeping, interrupting my work every ten minutes or more. It is then very easy to forget that we’re working with people, sick people, who are worried about their health, future, the pain they’re having or expecting to have. For most of us, the easiest way of dealing with our frustrations, constant pressure and chronic lack of sleep is by ignoring our patients’ human aspect and by denying any additional responsibilities towards them. Although we’d like to believe otherwise, this makes us just fairly average at our jobs. Not good.

So, I will work harder, despite the difficulties of system I’m working in, to be a better doctor. Because if patients can’t even trust us to have their best interest in mind, who can they? Certainly not the billions of hospital managers. And I will not complain about the health care system anymore… although I’m not quite sure how long I’ll be able to keep that one up.

Oh, how will I do all this? Well, read the book. And I’ll also need more holidays, obviously.

31 Mar 2008

Tomorrow is going to be my first day as a consultant Radiologist. Remember those first days? Of school? University? New job? I do.. scary as hell. Plunge in the deep end, eyes closed. So, tomorrow I’ll have another one. My new life, working without the safety net of a supervisor, no-one to ask for advice anymore, huge responsibilities. Terrifying.

On the other hand, today is the last day of my eight-year Radiology specialisation! Final day of those nagging supervisors, shitty jobs, dreadful night shifts… hurray!

So, glass half-full or half-empty? Nah, filled to the brim and I just worry a bit too much sometimes… nothing that a large G&T can’t fix :-).

(not that I’m suggesting alcohol is a solution, mind)

09 Mar 2008

A very hazy start of the day - I hadn’t quite realised that the bars in the Bermuda triangle don’t actually close… and that you can really never find your way out…

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A brilliant talk on cost-effectiveness of CTA in the assessment of coronary artery disease by my PhD supervisor professor Hunink (no bias!). She manages to make it seem so easy (believe me: it’s not!) and even has me interested in this part of the body so far removed from the brain. As far as the cost-effectiveness of me being here is concerned.. Huge quality of life and no expenses as others keep buying me drinks: Excellent!

And what a great end of the day: celebrating with cocktails having been awarded 3rd prize in the GE Brain Expert Competition!

08 Mar 2008

Scientific session on grey and white matter disease: Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s, Alzheimer’s and more Alzheimer’s studied with DTI.. reduced FA, increased MD, but still no real longitudinal studies to predict conversion mild cognitive impairment to Alzheimer’s.

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The Imagine exhibition, featuring our Medical Delta, still needs a bit of warming up. Until such time, it proves an excellent meeting point. Drinking coffee, saving our strength, because tonight, we’re exploring Vienna’s (in)famous Bermuda triangle!

07 Mar 2008

In the past year, I have often wondered why I do this: combining a fulltime clinical job with (PhD) research.. Today, it is obvious. I am in Vienna, for the European Congress of Radiology (ECR), and it is just worth all those evenings working late, lack of sleep and poor social life.

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ECR’s scheduling of the scientific sessions this year is a bit peculiar: while my colleague presented on carotid calcifications in a session on peripheral nerve and muscle disease, I got to present the findings on our cost-effectiveness analysis of CT scanning in minor head injury in the CTA session. Fortunately, Aunt Minnie was present and wrote a long article on my talk!

Lots of talks on dual source/dual energy CT this year. The way to go for CTA of the brain?

10 Feb 2008

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Last month I finally submitted my PhD thesis. I will not bore you with my (lack of) Christmas, New Year’s and the weeks leading up to submission. Suffice to say that now, more than two weeks after submitting, I seem to have my life back, a little.

Job done? Not quite. What else is there still to worry about? Lots.

First: My thesis is currently being reviewed by three highly learned professors, who will decide on its PhD-worthiness. A formality, I thought, but now I get to hear the horror stories, of very able and smart PhD students who had to rewrite half their thesis and resubmit. There’s no return. All I can do is wait.

Second: I need to come up with eleven statements. Originally, the public PhD defence was all about these statements, derived from your thesis or other insights gained during your PhD research. The thesis itself was less important, having already been read and peer-reviewed extensively. Nowadays, the statements are an important remnant of this tradition with a completely different status: that of showing off your extreme wit, deep insight and ultimate cleverness. I’m at a loss: where am I going to find eleven one-liners that show that I’m not just a boring PhD researcher, but in fact a very smart and funny person?

Third: The public defence. It’s scheduled for the 25th of June, and I’m already worried sick. This defence takes 60 minutes, exact, during which you are grilled about your work by ten professors in the presence of your colleagues, friends and family. People who have done this before say it really is fun, but I just don’t believe them. I think they’re not telling the truth, because otherwise nobody else will ever go through with it. I place them in the category of women that say childbirth isn’t that painful: big fat lies to ensure the continuation of our species.

Fourth: The party. This should be the fun part, I love parties. But there’s going to be too much room for embarrassment. One, nobody might show up at my beautiful party location for 100+ guests. Two, there seems to be no inhibition at these events with regards to the speeches/photos/songs that may be given/shown/performed. Oh god, I really should’ve considered this when getting slightly too drunk at those conferences…

07 Dec 2007

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Maybe it’s the time of the year, inspiring top 10s and best whatevers of the year, but We need to talk about Kevin (L. Shriver) really is the best book I read this year. I remember the controversy when this book came out, and winning the Orange Prize in 2005. Shriver was even depicted in the press as the “anti-mother”, writing of the unspoken, the dark side of motherhood.

The story, told in the form of letters written by Eva to her husband is chilling. She relates to him her initial doubts of becoming a mother, giving up her life as a successfull travel writer, and raising their son who at the age of 15 caused a high-school massacre. Somehow, worries about her son becoming a mass murderer were never on her list of cons…

Shriver’s writing is amazing, with an eloquence that makes me want to savour every word, every sentence.

A brilliant book, definitely recommended.