Beyond the scientist: Maria van den Muijsenbergh

Maria van den Muijsenbergh.jpg

Maria van den Muijsenbergh, Professor of Health disparities and person centered integrated Primary Care.

Where and when were you born?

In Heerlen, at the midwivery school hospital in 1956. I grew up in Goirle, a small village in Noord-Brabant where I spent a wonderful youth, playing outside in the fields and climbing trees all the time, like SIRE wants children to do more now.

Where do you live and with whom?

Close to Radboudumc and central Nijmegen in a big house, living apart together with the man I love. My children are grown up and live outside Nijmegen with their partners; I am the proud grandma of 4.

Who was your role model when you were a kid?

Nuns like my aunt working for the medical mission in deprived areas in Africa – I even practiced to eat flies as I had read about cultures where this was the usual food and I thought I had to get accustomed.

Why aren’t you doing the same thing now as your role model (or do you?)

By the age of 15 I realized a life in celibate was not my thing, but I started medical school with still the prospect of going to work abroad. During my studies I learned there were many disadvantaged groups in the Netherlands as well who needed a doctor, and I realized that good doctor – patient communication is the core of good medical care, especially as a general practitioner. So I became a GP here and I have never regretted this, as in my practice I have always had the privilege of meeting patients of very different ethnic and social backgrounds.

What is the thing in your (work or other) history that you are most proud of?

I am quite proud that five years ago together with another woman I managed to set up a shelter home and medical support program for undocumented homeless migrant women in Nijmegen, and that up to date the house and program prosper thanks to over 40 volunteers and that we have opened a third home last spring.

What is it that you would like to achieve in work in the next 5 to 10 years?

That all doctors realise the importance of a person centred approach, and know how to practice accordingly by tailoring information and communication to the needs and possibilities of the individual, and check the mutual understanding; that meaningful patient involvement in research has become normal practice and that attention to ethnic and socio-economic healthdisparities is structural part of professionals guidelines and of teaching to health professionals.

For what can we wake you up?

My children and grandchildren and other family as well as my patients may always wake me up. Personal continuity of care is of great value not only to the patient and his family, but also to the doctor have I experienced over the past 34 years.

What is your hobby and how good are you at it?

Reading, cooking, organizing events and talking.

What is your biggest irritation?

Managers of health care organizations who receive a large bonus when the leave the job, while at the same time the budget for cleaning personnel or for homecare is being cut. That the richer always get richer and so many people also in the Netherlands live in poverty.

Who would you like to invite for dinner, if you had the chance?

The Pope whom I greatly admire because of his plead for just and merciful migrant policies and for humbly caring for all vulnerable people.

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