Roos Pouw is excited to use her platform as Rising Star 2020 and call for a change in the management of submucosal oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Andrea van der Meulen, General Secretary Elect of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Gastro-Enterologie, is one of those who followed and supported Roos’ journey since the days of her GI specialist training.
Interview by UEG National Societies Committee
When and how did you become affiliated with your national society, and what have been your contributions so far?
Roos: I became affiliated with our national society the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Gastro-Enterologie (NVGE) in 2006, when I started my PhD-project on endoscopic eradication of early Barrett’s neoplasia. The NVGE organises two national meetings per year, where researchers get the chance to present their findings. As a young researcher with very little experience in presenting, these meetings are an ideal platform to present your research to a national audience. These events are also great to meet up with colleagues from other centres with the same research interests. During and after my training to become a GI specialist, the national society invited me to give lectures on my field of expertise. I think it is great that they give speaking opportunities to ‘younger’ speakers, rather than always relying on the usual suspects. Furthermore, I was involved in the education organised by our national society, both as a chair of the educational committee for trainee gastroenterologists, and as a member of the committee organising the bi-annual educational meetings. These roles offered me a nice opportunity to gain professional experience.
Andrea: We promote young talent and encourage social interaction by organising the digestive disease days twice a year. Alongside the scientific program we organise social events, i.e. time to have drinks and dinner together. A lot of research groups are formed this way and the goal is to always include young researchers as well, allowing them to spar about their ideas, ask for support and attract team members. What also works well for us is to award best abstracts, best presentations and best thesis. If an interesting manuscript is published, we often give podium to present these results. Last year Roos was presenter of the lecture “The endoscopic treatment of early carcinoma in the oesophagus”.
When did you first hear about the Rising Star Award, and how did you decide the time was right for you to apply?
Roos: Three years ago, one of the senior gastroenterologists I work with forwarded me an email announcing the Rising Star Award and encouraged me to apply. Unfortunately, that year I was not selected as a candidate by our national society. I do not remember being very disappointed, and I did not really think about the Rising Star Award the years after. However, last year I was speaking to a colleague from the UK who was planning to apply and who encouraged me to apply as well. By that time, I felt that I had done a lot more to justify a nomination and I thought I could just give it a try. I had set up my own research line, and I thought it would be a great opportunity to promote my research during UEG Week if I was awarded the Rising Star Award!
Andrea, how did the NVGE estimate – or even assess – Roos’ chances of being awarded?
Andrea: The applications are evaluated by the boards of the NVGE and the Nederlandse Vereniging van Maag-Darm-Leverartsen (NVMDL) and scored with reference to the criteria and rating as put forward by UEG. Four members of the NVGE board together with two members of the NVMDL board select eligible candidates, prior to the UEG Rising Star application deadline. They found that Roos had a good chance of being awarded. She is focused on reaching her goals and passionate to achieve them. She is always very organized, efficient and friendly. Roos has an enormous talent for science and is more than capable of continuing her research in a field with a lot of competition.
Roos: I myself had no idea about my chances, since I did not know who else was applying. However, I did read interviews with prior Rising Stars and felt that considering my track record, my application should at least be considered.
What is your approach to career development - are you more of a strategic planner, or do you grab opportunities along the way?
Roos: I am a very good planner and efficient worker. However, when it comes to career development, I am not very strategic, at least I find it difficult to look too far into the future. For now, I am very happy with the way I can combine my family, tertiary clinical care and innovative research. In our field of work, we are often confronted with the fact that life can change in an instant. Therefore, I regularly consider if I am still having fun doing what I am doing. When the answer is yes it gives me the energy to take on new tasks or research projects or start writing grant applications. I try to focus on the projects I am running, and to only take on projects within my field of interest. Many opportunities present themselves as easy, low-hanging fruit, however, my experience is that if you are not 100% committed, these opportunities only cost a lot of energy in the end. Therefore, I try to focus and stay genuinely interested in what I am doing, because that way I can keep this up for a long time!
What are some strategies to work around limited financial resources and achieve the track record it takes to become a Rising Star? Can you identify other key aspects that drive career development?
Roos: Believe in your own project. Find out what types of funding and scholarships are available to you nationally and internationally and try to find people who believe in your project and might want to support you. I think another important key aspect that drives career development is to find a good mentor. Someone who supports you and with whom you can reflect on your plans, troubles and ambitions.
The Rising Star Award is very prestigious, and the Rising Stars receive a lot of well-deserved recognition. What would you like to say to younger colleagues or peers who are at risk getting “star-struck” when they look at you and your achievements?
Roos: I think I am too modest to answer this question, since I cannot imagine anyone being star-struck by me or my achievements. Also, I did not apply to become a Rising Star to impress others, I did it to get recognition for the work my team and I are doing and to give my research a platform.
What sparked the passion for your specialty, and which of your findings are you most eager to share with the larger GI community?
Roos: My passion for gastroenterology and research was sparked by the fact that as a research fellow and trainee, I was fortunate enough to work at a very progressive gastroenterology department. Everyone was very driven to deliver excellent patient care and to combine this with ground-breaking research. For my specific field of interest, endoscopic management of oesophageal neoplasia, we have made great progress in the past years in diagnosing and treating early neoplastic lesions and preventing unnecessary, invasive surgery. It particularly appeals to me that we can really take care of the patient from the diagnosis, through therapy and follow-up. I want to share our view that it is time to change management in patients with submucosal oesophageal adenocarcinoma. Instead of referring these patients to the surgeon for esophagectomy, we can offer them a minimally invasive and very effective endoscopic treatment and watchful waiting policy.
How does Roos’ research stand out to you?
Andrea: When looking at Roos' publications and research line, there is a clear focus on endoscopic management of Barrett's related neoplasia. From her earlier studies until now, she focused on improving treatment modalities and management approaches for patients with Barrett's neoplasia. Most of her studies are either multicentre, national or international studies, ensuring that outcomes are widely implemented into clinical practice. I am excited to have Roos share her thought on changing management of submucosal oesophageal adenocarcinoma, since this would really imply a change in the current clinical practice.
Want to become our next Rising Star? Application for Rising Star Awards 2021 is open until September 10, 2020.