Marina van Damme Scholarship for physician Joeke Nollet

| Michaela Nesvarova

Joeke Nollet was selected as this year’s winner of the Marina van Damme scholarship. The UT alumna works as a medical doctor and will use the € 9,000 cash prize to study a new technique for diagnosing swallowing disorders. Nollet accepted the award during the UT Entrepreneurial Day ceremony in De Waaier today.

Photo by: RIKKERT HARINK

Marina van Damme scholarship

The Marina van Damme scholarship is annually awarded to an ambitious UT alumna with the purpose of advancing her career. It is made possible by a donation from Marina van Damme-Van Weele, who was the first to obtain a doctorate here at UT (back then called Twente Technical College) in 1965. The award consists of a cash prize of € 9,000 and a certificate.

You studied Technical Medicine at the UT and graduated in 2015. Why did you decide to apply for the scholarship this year?

Nollet: ‘I’m doing research at the intensive care unit at the Radboud university medical center in Nijmegen. I focus on swallowing disorders and I came across a new technique called High Resolution Impedance Manometry. It is a promising innovation to diagnose swallowing disorders in more detail, but it is not used clinically in the Netherlands yet. There is an expert on the technique in Australia. My goal is to travel there and learn as much as I can, to be able to implement this method in hospitals here, in collaboration with speech-language therapists.’

Why is there a need for such a new technique?

‘We think it may help us adapt treatments more specifically to the needs of every individual patient. If a patient suffers from a swallowing disorder, there is a danger the patient aspirates – that they inhale food or drinks into their lungs. If that happens, there is a risk of pneumonia. The technique could optimize diagnosis and tailor treatments, but we don’t know much about its role in clinical practice yet. This is the reason why I would like to study it in Australia.’

What has your career looked like so far?

‘After I graduated in Technical Medicine, I studied Medicine and became a physician. I’m now working at the Radboud university as a physician-researcher and next year I’m starting a residency in anesthesiology. However, I would like to continue doing research. My ambition is to combine research with my clinical work as a physician, and continue to stay involved with diagnostics for swallowing disorders and medical technical innovations.’

That is quite a unique career path for a UT alumna. Were you surprised to win the scholarship?

‘Yes, definitely. I was really surprised and very happy. I really hope this prize can help optimize the diagnostics and treatment of patients with swallowing disorders, so this is a great opportunity.’