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Désirée van der Heijde

Professor Rheumatology, in particular outcome research

Prof.dr. D.M.F.M. van der Heijde
+31 71 526 3647

Désirée M.F.M van der Heijde is professor of rheumatology, in particular outcome research. She is a boardmember of the 'Meteor' foundation, an international registry of disease activity and medication use of RA patients of more than 20 countries. She is also affiliated to the Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo, Norway as senior researcher. She received several prizes and awards including a doctorate honoaris causa at the university of Ghent in Belgium. Since 2014 she received each year the Thomson Reuters/Clarivate ‘Highly Cited Researcher’ certificate for multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% for that year in the category clinical medicine.

More information about Désirée van der Heijde


Rheumatic and musculoskeletal diseases (RMDs) are a diverse group of diseases that commonly affect the joints, but can affect any organ of the body. There are more than 200 different RMDs, affecting both children and adults. They are usually caused by problems of the immune system, inflammation, infections or gradual deterioration of joints, muscles and bones. Many of these diseases are long term and worsen over time. They are typically painful and limit function. In severe cases, RMDs can result in significant disability, having a major impact on both quality of life and life expectancy.

Academic career

Désirée van der Heijde obtained her medical degree in 1986 from the Catholic University in Nijmegen, the Netherlands. She completed her PhD entitled ‘Disease activity and outcome in rheumatoid arthritis. A methodological study.’ in 1991 and became a Board-Certified Rheumatologist in 1993. Following a 1-year appointment in Sweden in 1993, she joined the Department of Rheumatology at the University Hospital Maastricht until 2007, when she took up her current position as Professor of Rheumatology at the Leiden University Medical Center. Since 2007, she has also been affiliated to the Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo, Norway. Her major research interest is in the methodology of outcomes assessment and its application in clinical research. Specific areas of interest are radiographic scoring methods in rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, and spondyloarthritis, as well as scoring of magnetic resonance imaging in spondyloarthritis. Her work was summarized in a Profile in The Lancet in 2018.

Professor van der Heijde was the Chairperson of the Assessment of SpondyloArthritis international Society (ASAS) from 1995 to 2012. She served on the executive committee of EULAR, the European League against Rheumatism, in various positions between 2011 and 2019. From 2019 onwards, she is the chair of the Executive Committee of FOREUM, an international foundation to support research in RMDs.

Professor van der Heijde has published more than 925 papers in the international literature, as well as over 40 chapters in leading rheumatology textbooks. Her H-index (determined on 20 June 2020) is 132. She is associate editor of the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases and member of the editorial board of RMD Open and the Journal of Rheumatology.

Prizes and honourable appointments

For her thesis, she received the Gosling award. She was awarded the prestigious Carol Nachman Award for her scientific contributions to rheumatology in 2011, a doctorate honoris causa from the University of Ghent in Belgium in 2012, and the Jan van Breemen medal from the Dutch Society of Rheumatology in 2017. She is an honorary member of EULAR. Since 2014 she received each year the Thomson Reuters/Clarivate ‘Highly Cited Researcher’ certificate for multiple highly cited papers that rank in the top 1% for that year in the category clinical medicine.

Professor Rheumatology, in particular outcome research

  • Faculteit Geneeskunde
  • Divisie 2
  • Reumatologie

Work address

LUMC Main Building
Albinusdreef 2
2333 ZA Leiden
Room number C1-R



  • Annals of Rheumatic Diseases Lid advisory board
  • Bechterew patientenvereniging adviseur
  • EULAR bij ACR (American Society) vertegenwoordiger
  • EULAR executive committee lid
  • EULAR standing committee ESCCA Voorzitter
  • EULAR task force longterm trials lid
  • EULAR task force management axSpa voorzitter
  • EULAR task force management RA lid
  • EULAR task force on imaging in SpA lid
  • GESPIC adviseur
  • Imaging Rheumatology BV Directeur
  • International advisory board ARRIMAGE, research network of French universities lid
  • RMD Open Lid editorial board
  • SpA en PsA Voorzitter abstract selection ACR
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