During the celebration of the Dies Natalis of the University of Twente (UT), the Overijssel PhD Award for the best PhD thesis of last year was awarded to Renske van Wijk, PhD. The award was presented by Eddy van Hijum, provincial executive of the Province of Overijssel.
Renske van Wijk, PhD, performed her doctoral research at the department of Health Technology and Services Research, part of UT research institute IGS. This resulted in the doctoral thesis ’Heads: positional skull deformation in infants: heading towards evidence-based practice,’ defended by Ms Van Wijk on 25 September 2014. Her thesis supervisors were Leo van Vlimmeren, Magda Boere-Boonekamp and Maarten IJzerman.
Ms Van Wijk's research concerned the effectiveness of helmet treatment in infants. With one in five infants, skull deformation is found in the first months after birth. This deformation may be caused by the relative softness of an infant's skull, the fact that the skull grows fast and that much of the time an infant lies on its back. Skull deformation is a cosmetic condition that can be treated by a 'redression helmet' to be worn by the infant 23 hours a day for a number of months. For a long time, this treatment was covered in the basic healthcare insurance. There is, however, no proof that the treatment is effective in practice. Ms Van Wijk demonstrated that helmet treatment in infants with mild to serious skull deformation is no more effective than letting natural recovery take its course.
The jury states that Ms Van Wijk's research question – is helmet treatment effective? – could not be answered easily in scientific terms. The fact that Ms Van Wijk did succeed in this is a major achievement. The jury says that her research has caused and is still causing a paradigm shift.
According to the jury, Ms Van Wijk's research will lead to a reduction in unnecessary treatments and unnecessary expenses. It is therefore an excellent example of scientific research with a high impact on society.
The Overijssel PhD Award is the award for a PhD thesis of excellent quality that may be regarded as the start of a promising career in science. The award is in part made possible by the Province of Overijssel and consists of a certificate and a sum of €5,000. Each department and research institute of the University of Twente can submit one PhD thesis.