Stories#099 Frank's technical medicine

#099 Frank's technical medicine

The story of Maaike's written watchtower is a story about Frank's technical medicine

Researcher Frank Halfwerk is busy to say the least. Not only is he an assistant professor at UT and a technical physician at MST; he also dances at a professional level. Needless to say: it’s a lot. Editor-in-chief at U-Today, Maaike Platvoet, delved into the archives and can't wait to talk to Frank about the different roles Frank takes on.

Click for Dutch version

Monday 5 December 2022 

Role play

Maaike: ‘Nice that I get to interview you, Frank! I looked up your name in our archives to see what we’ve written about you. I came across an old interview in the UT-Nieuwskrant, about you as a competition dancer, including a picture. Can you tell me something about that?’

Frank: ‘Ah, you mean that picture of me doing what’s called the Throwaway Oversway, with dr. Simone Boerema. Since 2009 I’m at the Vrijhof every Tuesday evening, at 4 happy feet. That’s the ballroom dance and salsa association of UT where I danced myself and now teach ballroom dancing. But I also dance international competitions. I’m even Dutch champion with one of the dance federations.’

Maaike: ‘Wow, that's not just a hobby. What makes it so fun to you?’

Frank: ‘During a dance class recently, a couple joined for the first time, because they’re getting married in February and want to dance together at their wedding. You could immediately see that sparkle in their eyes. Having fun, moving harmoniously together, being creative and athletic, presenting yourself well; it's fantastic. Just talking about it makes me happy already.’

I like to transfer knowledge; whether it concerns dancing, education, or in healthcare

Frank Halfwerk

Maaike: ‘I can tell. I understand you dance at a high level. That must be quite physically demanding. Do you have to sacrifice a lot?’

Frank: ‘Yes, especially around the national championships. Then I’ll work less for two weeks in advance, so that I’m more relaxed and can practice more often. During that time I also watch my diet and alcohol. We also do stamina training, where we simulate the finals of a ballroom competition. And we go to practice camps in the Czech Republic to train intensively. In the Netherlands I organise those camps for others. I like to transfer knowledge. Whether it’s about dancing, in education, or in healthcare. As long as I get to inspire people, I’m happy.’

Maaike: ‘I love that. That’s also a nice transition to my next question. You’re an assistant professor at UT and a technical physician at the MST Thorax Centre. Where do you prefer to be?’

Frank: ‘Gosh, that’s a tough question. That depends on how I feel. Am I Frank the professional, the technical physician? Then I want nothing more than to be in the hospital and interact with patients. There are also days when I like to be in my lab, surrounded by students and PhD candidates.’

Maaike: ‘Seems like an interesting and challenging combination, but also stressful. You’re constantly dividing your attention.’

Frank: ‘Fortunately I have dancing as an outlet. When I'm on the dancefloor, I don’t think about work at all. When I couldn’t dance because of Covid restrictions, for example, I noticed that I had more work-related stress.’

When I'm on the dancefloor, I don’t think about work at all

Frank Halfwerk

Maaike: ‘Do you have any other outlets?’

Frank: ‘A few years ago my husband introduced me to Dungeons and Dragons. That's a fantasy role-playing game, in which everyone takes on a Lord of the Rings-like role and you experience all kinds of adventures. A storyline, also called a campaign, can last two to three years. Together with friends we play that every Sunday evening.’

Maaike: ‘And then you sit down with a patient on Monday to discuss a bypass of the heart. Speaking of which, you’re the one who was behind the first live stream of a bypass surgery, right?’

Frank: ‘That’s right! Professor Grandjean, heart surgeon at MST and professor at UT, and I thought it was time to show students the ropes. It’s impossible to all be in the operating room together, so we came up with the idea to watch a heart surgeon through a livestream on a large screen. I do the voiceover. The first time, in 2015, we were a bit nervous whether everything would go according to plan in terms of the technology. It has turned into an annual tradition and students are very excited about it. We also teach the students about the ethical aspect of watching a live heart surgery.’

Maaike: ‘2015, you say. Then you’ve been affiliated with UT for a long time. With your background you can probably go anywhere – what makes you stay here?’

UT feels like a community with like-minded people who are eager to do and learn something new, in order to improve the world

Frank Halfwerk

Frank: ‘I think it’s the bustling environment. I’m in and around the Vrijhof building fairly often, I love being surrounded by the art there. But also the sense of community. It feels like a community with like-minded people who are eager to do and learn something new, in order toimprove the world. That makes me happy.’

Maaike: ‘Same. That's one of the reasons why I've been here since 2002. Do you see any room for improvement?’

Frank: ‘Always. I’m thinking of inclusion and diversity. Ensuring that the campus, education, and research become more accessible. I’ve recently submitted a grant application for this. For deaf people, like my partner, it would be very valuable if we subtitled our videos by default. Or if we use a sign language interpreter during live sessions. We could do something similar for people with a visual impairment or colour blindness. They don't have to be big or difficult adjustments.’

Maaike: ‘Who knows what the future brings. I read that you’re also researching the improvement of biological heart valves?’

Frank: ‘Yes, I was involved with that during my master thesis and PhD. Now I focus more on surgical simulation. How can we teach people new surgical skills before they apply them to patients? I like to see people in the medical world practice in a simulated environment before they start working with patients. I really think practising on patients is not done in the 21st century, because then you provide sub-optimal care. You should be proficient before practice.’

Maaike: ‘To conclude, what are you proud of?’

Frank: ‘On what Technical Medicine has become, on what we do as 4 happy feet, on how UT has further embraced the domain Health and on how we improve education. And I’m proud of my wonderful partner, who supports me in everything.’

Maaike: ‘You sound like a happy and fortunate person. Let me know if you have an exciting dance competition!’

Frank: ‘I will!’

Maaike Platvoet (1977)

graduated in 2000 as a journalist at Windesheim University of Applied Sciences. She did so with a graduation assignment at the Twentsche Courant Tubantia, where she was subsequently given various contracts. Maaike got to know UT through her work as an employee at the internship office. In 2002 she started working at UT news, which is now called U-Today. After working there as a journalist for years, she has been Editor-in-Chief since 2016. She monitors the quality of the website, the magazines, and the specials. In addition, as secretary she is part of the Kring van Hoofdredacteuren Hoger Onderwijs.

dr. Frank Halfwerk (1989)

obtained his bachelor's and master's degree in technical medicine and master’s health sciences at UT. Frank did his graduation internship at Medisch Spectrum Twente (MST) and has been working there since 2014 as a technical physician. For the past two years, he’s been combining this appointment with a position as Assistant Professor. As chairman of ballroom dance and salsa association 4 happy feet, Frank won the Schuijer Cultuurprijs for excellent culture as well as good study results in 2012. In addition, in 2014 he won the prof. Snellen prize from the Dutch Society for Cardiology and the Dutch Society for Thoracic surgery.