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Royal honour for gynaecologist Dick Oepkes

LUMC professor and gynaecologist Dick Oepkes was made a Knight of the Order of the Netherlands Lion on 15 April. Mayor Henri Lenferink presented him with the medal at the end of on online symposium to mark Oepkes’ retirement.

For over 30 years Oepkes worked at the LUMC in foetal therapy, the young field of treating the unborn child in the womb. This has saved the lives of many unborn children. The Leiden department of foetal therapy developed into a top national care centre, led from 2009 by Oepkes, who became a professor in 2012. The centre gives extra attention to parents, for whom it is a time of great stress. The LUMC now performs around 150 foetal operations per year. 

Knight of the Oder of the Netherlands Lion, Oepkes, with Leiden mayor Henri Lenferink in the background.
Knight of the Oder of the Netherlands Lion, Oepkes, with Leiden mayor Henri Lenferink in the background.

The use of Doppler as a non-invasive method to evaluate foetal health was one of the innovative methods that Oepkes researched at an early stage. This research undoubtedly prevented many miscarriages from repeated amniocenteses, and the Doppler method changed obstetrics around the world.

Oepkes has generously shared his knowledge and experience in an exceptionally long list of publications and in many presentations at international conferences and symposiums. It is thanks to him that the Netherlands has become a leading example in the world for the introduction of technology and other ground-breaking treatments in obstetrics. 

In 2004 Oepkes was one of the founders of the M.O.E.T. (Managing Obstetric Emergencies and Trauma) Foundation in the Netherlands. It was his doing that an obstetrics course developed by M.O.E.T. was made a compulsory part of the gynaecology curriculum. Thus far 1,600 gynaecologists and 250 anaesthesiologists have followed the course.

Oepkes has been an inspiring mentor and teacher to many students from home and abroad. 
Oepkes has earned international recognition not only as an expert in foetal therapy but also as a key figure in his international network. To him, collaboration is essential: ‘Everyone knows everyone else. It’s a travelling circus of experts who together have the ability to not only devote both their time and creativity to innovative developments but also to treat one another like friends. You need both, and I have been lucky enough to have been part of this.’ 

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