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‘Tolerance and respect will advance medical science’

Fijs van Leeuwen, Professor of Radiology, Molecular Imaging and Image-Guided Therapy, advocates an open and respectful academic culture that always puts the patient first. He delivered his inaugural lecture on 13 November.

Fijs van Leeuwen, Professor of Molecular Imaging and Image-Guided Therapy at the LUMC.
Fijs van Leeuwen, Professor of Molecular Imaging and Image-Guided Therapy at the LUMC.

Translational science ‘translates’ fundamental scientific discoveries into practical applications. For the LUMC this means that new working methods and technologies benefit patient care. This branch of science is increasingly in the spotlight, which means, said Van Leeuwen, the time is ripe to look at whether we are on the right path. What do we want to achieve and are there further advances we can make?  

Winning teams

To get the discussion going, Van Leeuwen gave his audience in Leiden University’s Academy Building some thought-provoking issues to mull over. We had to discuss this together, he said, because there’s a lot to be gained. Van Leeuwen used analogies from rugby, the sport he’s played a lot himself, in his lecture, noting that as in many team sports, each rugby player has their own role. Each player also trusts that all of the team members will do their very best in their roles and will try to create new opportunities for the others. This is a sentiment that deserves a bit more attention in the scientific world, said Van Leeuwen. 

Just as in rugby, Van Leeuwen continued, winning teams are important, which means some form of friendly competition is inevitable. But at the same time, it’s very important to make sure that this natural drive to perform doesn’t distract people from the end goal, and that it doesn’t widen the distance between practitioner and patient, Van Leeuwen was keen to stress. The final goal is – and remains – to help improve patient care. 

Room for strong opinions

Van Leeuwen pointed to the importance of respect and tolerance for other people’s expertise and views. Medical and academic professionals often have different and strong opinions, he said, and indeed they should have clear opinions on topics beside their own specific expertise. This diversity creates opportunities, especially if we are open, respectful and tolerant towards others. Ideally, Van Leeuwen continued, this promotes cooperation among professionals in the workplace. It’s only when that is working that we know our working methods are truly solid and sustainable, Van Leeuwen concluded.  

Serve as an example

If the scientific world keeps its promises, it can even serve as an example to society, the professor said. He closed with the catchphrase of Dutch comic strip character Olivier B. Bommel: ‘… if you get my meaning.’ A fitting end to an inaugural lecture that called for an open discussion on one another’s viewpoints.

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