Roel Gijzen received his bachelor's in Industrial Engineering and Management from the University of Twente and is now studying for his master's in Industrial Engineering and Management at the same university. This programme trains you to design, control and optimize processes in complex organizations and businesses in a global context, using mathematical modelling, computer simulations and advanced ICT.
The world revolves around risk and returns, whether it's about money, energy, study, love or health. Mathematically, it's all the same; the variables are just defined a bit differently sometimes. That's why I've chosen to study Financial Engineering and Management as part of my Industrial Engineering and Management Master. Because while it's nice and convenient to be able to apply a method, it's better to really understand it, to open it up and use its parts within the context of a larger whole.
On the advice of my course director, I participated in a six-month exchange programme in Cardiff, where I fulfilled my electives, significantly expanded my mathematical and programming knowledge, gained brilliant experiences and lifted my English language skills to the maximum level, according to the CEFR.
During my travels, I was approached by a number of banks – thanks in part to the combination of mathematics in Cardiff and Financial Engineering in Twente. In the banking sector, a shortage of financial knowledge coupled with mathematics and/or IT makes it a highly sought-after combination. It's a definitely a sector that interests me, and it's the focus of my studies for good reason. That's why, for my thesis, I got in touch with my course director and asked if he could throw me in the deep end once more. Now I have the opportunity to broaden my horizons, without taking on more risk, but potentially earning far greater returns.
I ended up at the Sint Maartenskliniek in Nijmegen under the guiding hand of the CEO himself. It's a specialised hospital focused on movement and posture, as well as people affected by paraplegia. The clinic has been offering an Exo-Suit for a number of years now, a device that allows people with paraplegia to walk again, as long as they're able to use their arms for balance and control. My research is concerned with the Exo-Suit.
It's wonderful that this group of people is able to walk again and sometimes suffer from fewer health problems like spasms. And best of all, it reopens a world of capabilities for them that people without paraplegia take for granted.
The benefits of the Exo-Suit are different for every individual. However, the current method of calculation for compensation is generalised and primarily focused on extending life, regardless of really looking to the quality. The current methods for calculating the value of an intervention use the QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Years) methods. If you take the product of the quality of life (from 0 to 1) and quantity of life (in years) of interventions 1 and 2 (often usual care), then the difference is the QALY. Every perfect year of life is worth maximum €80,000, so a 10-year extension of life with a quality of 0.2 is worth €160,000. Simply stated, an intervention is covered if it's cheaper and otherwise it's not. Obviously, this explanation is somewhat limited, but gives a good general idea.
Amartya Sen is a philosopher who invented the Capability Approach, for which he won a Nobel prize. This approach looks primarily at the capabilities people have and not what that person does with them. As he often says, "For one person, not eating can be fasting, for the other, it's starving." This method takes a much more personal approach, however it's only philosophical. It’s my challenge to turn it into something applicable.
The good thing is that I'm a freshman in the field of health care, so everything is new and interesting. Everyone knows that you don't understand the concepts and processes, so they explain everything in detail. Because I am a freshman, of course, I 'have to' see everything: most amazingly the Cybathlon in Zurich. The Cybathlon is the Olympic Games for bionic people, where an amputated arm was replaced, a paraplegic patient could walk again with an Exo-Suit or could cycle using muscle stimulation, and where a computer game was controlled solely by the brain.
The technology is moving fast and I have to make sure that the implementation for health care can move just as fast. It doesn't matter what you choose; mathematically, everything is the same. That's why I've chosen Twente – high returns without too much risk. I could make huge steps, and yes, I've fallen a few times, but there's always someone at the university to pick you up and set you back on the field. It's how I was able to organise a study trip to Brazil, do a bachelor's project in Indonesia, an Erasmus exchange in Cardiff and now help people with paraplegia walk again in Nijmegen. Everything is possible at the University of Twente, if you dare to take the leap.