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Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health
Together for more healthy years
Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health
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The Aletta Research Meet-up experiences of Aletta’s Talent Steef Konings

Datum:15 juni 2018
Aletta Research Meet-up
Aletta Research Meet-up

Around seven years ago I moved to Groningen in order to study econometrics at the local university. After finishing this study last year, I became a PhD scholarship student in the field of health economics at the UMCG, at the department of psychiatry. Recently I have been asked to assist in starting up Aletta’s Talent Network, together with Hermien Dijk, who is currently the chair of the organizing committee.

I attended the research meet-up on the 7th of June for two reasons: I came to represent Aletta’s Talent Network, and I had an interest in obtaining different perspectives on public health research. The day started as a typical morning for a Groningen commuting cyclist: slightly in a hurry to be on time, until a roadblock hindered the way to my destination. After taking an improvised new route, I reached the venue with plenty of time left for a cup of coffee.

With my cup of coffee I greeted both new and familiar faces, and afterwards everyone moved into the room where Jochen Mierau and Gerjan Navis would kick-off this inspiring day. The audience was encouraged to get out of their comfort zones, which honestly is something I’ve been doing for a while now. For instance, with my background in econometrics I never imagined ending up as an interdisciplinary PhD student at a psychiatry department.

As for leaving our comfort zones, it was refreshing to hear talks on such a variety of topics. Gerjan Navis’s talk on the dietary habits of the population in the Northern Netherlands aligned well with current hot topics in the UMCG: prevention based healthcare, lifestyle, and healthy ageing. Dietary habits is not a subject I often hear about in my field of research, even though it can be relevant in mental health as well.

For the first round of workshops I visited the talks with resilience as a theme. The session started out with a talk on Uruguayan abortion law. This talk went beyond boundaries both literally and figuratively, as I never imagined that PhD projects in public health here in Groningen would cover such an extensive range of topics. After absorbing a lot of information, the session ended with a practical talk on translating knowledge into action.

During the lunch I represented Aletta’s Talent Network at the information market and spoke with several young researchers from various fields. It was nice to see genuine interest and intentions to connect with other fields than their own. Arts, theology, law… As a researcher working at the UMCG it is sometimes easy to forget that there are so many talented researchers from all these different fields working on projects related to public health, especially when the link between a field of research and public health seemingly isn’t straightforward.

For the second round of workshops I went to the talks about justice. Researchers in my field often work with policy in general, so I figured it would be nice to hear about the implementation side of things for a change, as an addition to my own perspective. I certainly was not disappointed by this session, especially the talk on the new European privacy law was very relevant for researchers in general.

After the final workshop session there was an interesting keynote lecture on kidney distribution in case of renal failure. For me it was nice to see how a concept from economic theory can be used to save lives.

Although the talks and workshops covered a wide variety of topics, one thing that I was able to take away is that the public health researchers here share an ideal of improving or extending patients’ lives. With this in mind, the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health aim “together for more healthy years” is very fitting.

Following the end of the research meet-up, we -- the Aletta’s Talent Network members -- finished the day with a pizza dinner. This was a nice opportunity to get acquainted to our fellow researchers from different fields, accompanied by drinks and a delicious pizza. Hopefully this is just the start of something great, and hopefully there will be more days like this one. I certainly look forward to the continuation of the Aletta Jacobs School of Public Health, and Aletta’s Talent Network in particular. I hope the future brings more of these meetings where we as researchers can deepen each other’s knowledge, learn from each other’s research fields, and no less important: have a good time.

Are you between twenty and thirty years old, a researcher at heart, with an interest in public health? Sign up for Aletta's Talent Network