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Interview: prof. dr. P. Wesseling

prof. dr. P. Wesseling

Some MD’s already know in their infancy what they would like to become (pediatrician!; brain surgeon!) and manage to make that dream come true. However the road to my ‘final destination’ in Medicine was quite different. After finishing highschool I had figured out that I wanted to become a dentist. I assumed that this would allow me to combine intellectual challenges with workmanship (sic!). Nevertheless a few weeks into the first lectures in dentistry (UvA, 1977) I started to doubt whether dentistry was really the right choice for me.

Around that same period I passed the (in)famous ‘bones-exam’ with high marks. As a result Prof. Madjerek, the examiner of the Dept. of Anatomy of the UvA, asked me what my plans were for the future. I answered: ‘I don’t know exactly, but I’m pretty sure that I don’t want to become a dentist’. Whereupon Prof. Madjerek replied that I was probably better off in Medicine. Consequently, after some thorough discussions with the student counselors, I was allowed to continue with the second year of Medicine. However, I did have to catch up some stuff, including an exam on ‘Sexuality’ (apparently a topic which was not considered to be relevant for first year students in Dentistry). For this exam, in autumn 1978, I had to visit the Dept. of Psychiatry. With the rest of the AMC still being under construction I may thus well be the first medical student who ever did an exam in the AMC.

prof. dr. P. Wesseling

Although I found Medicine to be really interesting I still didn’t know exactly what I would like to do next. Not until I participated in an obligatory rotation in Pathology (Wilhelmina Gasthuis). The supervisor of my group was Jan Willem Jansen, a very friendly resident in Pathology with a real interest in teaching and quite different from the caricature that many colleagues made of pathologists at that time (‘nerds in the basement doing creepy stuff’). During this rotation I again was asked what my plans were for were the future. Although I wasn’t exactly sure I knew that I didn’t want to become a regular MD. Whereupon Jan Willem Jansen suggested that pathology might be a good fit. Subsequently, I did some more reading on this medical specialty, decided to apply for a position as a resident, and started my training as a pathologist in 1984.

However about half a year into residency I figured out that Pathology is a very broad specialty. Therefore I wanted to focus on ,what I considered to be, the most interesting part of the human body: the brain. With this in mind I asked Prof. Vooys, head of Pathology in the Radboudumc at that time, whether it was possible to subspecialize in neuropathology. Surprisingly Prof. Vooys replied that he was just about to ask me if I was interested in continuing my career in this subspecialty. Subsequently I became increasingly involved in the pathological diagnosis of Central Nervous System (CNS) diseases.

In conclusion I’m very happy with the role I can play in Medicine. I’m very grateful for the advice I was given. Some medical students may have a very clear idea about where they want to end up in Medicine. For others, (un)sollicited advice of colleagues, combined with ‘prove all things; hold fast that which is good’ may help to find their destination.

[headline_box text=”Résumé”]
Who are you?

Pieter Wesseling, born in 1959, raised in Rotterdam, studied Medicine in Amsterdam at the University of Amsterdam (UvA); was trained as a (neuro)pathologist in the Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen.

When and where did you graduate?

1984, Medicine at the University of Amsterdam (UvA).

What is your area of expertise?

Pathology of tumors of the central nervous system (CNS).

What is your current position?

Professor in Neuro-oncological Pathology, Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen and since 2010 (for 50% of my time) in VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam as well.

What were your previous positions?

Professionally as a medical specialist grown and matured in esp. Radboud University Medical Center, Nijmegen (incl. training in 1991-1992 in Duke University Medical Center, Durham NC, USA).

What are your research interests?

Translational research on pathobiology/molecular genetics of tumors of the CNS.


Co-author of > 200 manuscripts in international peer-reviewed journals; multiple book chapters, including chapters on several entities in the current WHO classification of CNS tumors.


KWF/Dutch Cancer Society personal clinical research grant in 2004-2010; Member of leading expert panel for 2015/2016 update of WHO classification of CNS tumors.

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