Internship Melissa Vaanholt

The most rewarding aspect of my placement was that it gave me not only the opportunity to practice my research and presenting skills, but also gave me valuable insights into patient preferences and the organisation of a hospital.Melissa Vaanholt

Perfect bridge between prior study and interests

I chose the Master's Health Sciences at the University of Twente because it was the perfect bridge between my bachelor and my career interests. I started as a student in Psychobiology, where I studied the physiological, genetic, and developmental mechanisms of (abnormal) human behaviour. With this knowledge one attempts to explain human behavior and seek treatments for mental disorders such as Autism or Alzheimer's Disease. My interests became more interdisciplinary as time went on. I wanted to broaden my knowledge, and focus more on the health policy, regulation, and the implementation of (medical) inventions in health care; that is why I decided to study Health Sciences. The flexibility of the Master’s programme enabled me to tailor the programme exactly to my interests, which spanned across different disciplines. By combining courses from different disciplines, such as management, consultancy and health technology assessment, I was able to acquire a broad set of analytical skills in public health and epidemiology, while simultaneously focusing on my particular interests in improving the efficacy, safety, and quality of health care.

Internship at Medisch Spectrum Twente

To get the final proof of competence for finishing my Master's Degree, I completed my Master's thesis at the Cardiology Department of the Thoraxcentre Twente in the Medisch Spectrum Twente. My Master thesis project aimed to examine how patients with coronary artery disease, who underwent a revascularization procedure, value different adverse outcomes of their treatment. Nowadays, clinical trials comparing treatments for coronary revascularization generally use the so-called “composite endpoints”, in which multiple events are all treated as one endpoint. Such outcomes are commonly used in randomized control trials in order to increase statistical precision and efficiency, resulting in trials becoming smaller and less costly. However, the use of these “composite endpoints” is questioned because it assumes that all unfavourable outcomes of a treatment (e.g. death, major stroke causing permanent disability, or recurrent chest pain) are equally important and therefore have equal weight to patients. In my master thesis project, I aimed to examine patients’ perspectives regarding the use of these “composite endpoints” and the relative value patients put on possible unfavourable outcomes of treatment. To increase the clinical relevance of my research, I have developed a measure to calculate “weighted composite endpoints”, which can be applied to “raw” trial data, in order to give a better reflection of patient preference values for treatment outcomes of revascularization procedures: leading to better patient-centred care. One of the highlights of my placement was that the abstract of my research paper was accepted for podium presentation at the ISPOR 19th Annual European Congress to be held in Vienna (Austria) later this year. This will really give me the opportunity to step out of the classroom and get some real world professional experience.

Learning opportunity

As well as giving me the opportunity to practice my research and presenting skills, my placement also gave me insights into patient preferences for health status outcomes, and valuable insights into the organization of a hospital and how “hard” daily life can be for patients with coronary artery disease, and health care professionals. Insights I would like to use in my future job to improve the efficacy, safety, and quality of care.

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