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Interview: prof. dr. S. Middeldorp

prof. dr. S. Middeldorp

Looking back at my career – hopefully I can still look ahead as well!

At the age of 14, I already knew I wanted to study medicine and since then I luckily never doubted that choice. I studied medicine here in Amsterdam at the AMC. It was during clinical lectures that I found out about my interest in internal medicine and my enthusiasm for this specialty was confirmed during my clinical rotations. My dream was to become a really good internist and work in a large, peripheral hospital, like the OLVG. I was eager to work hard and to see extraordinary patients in a broad specialty like internal medicine, but research was not one of my aspirations. Some people genuinely enjoy to unravel every part of one little cell, at a level they almost become a part of the cell. Although I admire such commitment to basic research, it wasn’t particularly for me. When I had to do my four-month scientific internship, I took the opportunity to go abroad and I ended up performing a genetics study about Tourette syndrome in the United States, a truly great (and fun) experience.

As ANIOS internal medicine at the AMC, I applied for the trainee program. There were three positions available, but we were with eight applicants and I had little research aspirations. When I was asked by head of the residency program in internal medicine (prof. Arisz), if I wanted to obtain a PhD position first, I rejected the offer and I was not selected. However, when a few weeks later a position became vacant, I was the first one they called to offer a residency in internal medicine. Apparently, my honesty and clearly outspoken ambition to become an excellent internist were being appreciated. I believe it is vital to follow your heart, as it wouldn’t help you to do something that you actually don’t like to do. Work as a doctor comprises a substantial part of your life, so your work should give you energy.

prof. dr. S. Middeldorp

The first time I really performed research was also more or less obligatory as we had to publish at least one paper during residency. Factor V Leiden had just been discovered and this topic particularly appealed to me as I acknowledged the clinical relevance and importance in this research field. At this point I started to sincerely enjoy research and the good atmosphere between colleagues contributed to my enthusiasm. Here it became clear to me that it is important to recognize opportunities and to grab such opportunities (if you want to). It is particularly of importance whether your research team is productive and willing to give the right guidance. Luckily, I was being offered different great opportunities, such as speaking at conferences and collaborating with investigators from other centers. I had to work hard, but my work was being appreciated and I saw my results being translated into clinical practice, which was very satisfying. What I like about research, and especially observational and interventional research, is the clinical relevance of such studies. I feel the urgency to answer questions that pregnant women with thrombophilia ask me every day. Although some persistence is needed, it feels great when you are finally able to publish research contributing substantially to the medical field

What are my ambitions for the future? I still have at least 18 years to go and I feel the importance to keep working on clinical trials, to give evidence-based answers that have significant clinical implications. Currently, we are working on a large prospective trial investigating the role of anticoagulants on miscarriage in women with thrombophilia. Vascular medicine is a young and dynamic specialty and our staff members are dedicated to both clinical and scientific work. Furthermore, our team consists of a large group of PhD students who have all kinds of new, fresh ideas. Being able to combine my clinical work with research makes my work very diverse and interesting, although it may seem impossible at first to do all such things.

In my experience, you can design your life in a way that you can have both a successful career and a nice private life. If you want to, you can make decisions in order to increase your quality of life at home: by having groceries delivered, by having a dishwasher, by investing in a cleaning service… Do whatever you get your energy from and you will end up wherever you should be.

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

Saskia Middeldorp (1966).

When and where did you graduate?
  • Medicine: University of Amsterdam, 1992
  • Registration as internist: AMC, 1999
  • PhD thesis: “Clinical and laboratory studies in genetic and acquired thrombotic states”, 2000
  • Registration as internist vascular medicine: AMC, 2002
What is your area of expertise?

Thrombosis and hemostasis.

What is your current position?

Professor of vascular medicine at the AMC and co-chair of the department of vascular medicine.

What were your previous positions?

1999: Staff member internal medicine, AMC
2006: Staff member clinical epidemiology and internal medicine, LUMC Leiden
2010: Staff member internal and vascular medicine, AMC

What are your research interests?

Coagulation and pregnancy is an area which has my particular interest.

Publications?

Lots, however one of the publications I’m proudest of would be my first paper about the incidence of venous thromboembolism in family members of patients with factor V Leiden, published in 1998. Furthermore, I really enjoyed leading the ALIFE-study, published in 2010 which investigated whether anticoagulants are able to prevent miscarriage in women with unexplained recurrent miscarriage. Currently, we are working on the ALIFE2-study, elaborating on this research question in women with inherited thrombophilia, and on the Highlow study, to identify the optimal dose of thrombosis prophylaxis in pregnant women with a history of venous thromboembolism.

Awards?

She held a research fellowship (2003-2007) and was Clinical Established Investigator (2008-2010) of the Netherlands Heart Foundation. VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) on the topic “Thrombophilia and Reproduction”.

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