Merel van der Stelt has won the Prof. Dr. G.P. Vooijs Award with her final research project ‘Protheses maken (Making prosthetic devices)’ in the 3D lab at the Masanga Hospital in Sierra Leone. This award goes to the most clinically relevant final research project in the Technical Medicine educational programmes in the Netherlands. She was presented with the award, which entails the sum of 1,000 euros, during the online Technical Innovation in Medicine Conference on 30 April 2021.
Merel van der Stelt received the award for her final research project while following the Technical Medicine Master's programme at the University of Twente (UT). Van der Stelt has shown that, with a 3D printer, software, 3D hand scanner and a lot of enthusiasm, you really can make the world a better place − in such a way that developing countries can also benefit. It is partly through her hard work, constructive thinking and independence that the 3D lab at the Masanga Hospital in Sierra Leone has become what it is today. Not only did she make arm prosthetic devices from scratch in collaboration with the industry, prosthetics makers, rehabilitation doctors, tropical medicine doctors and local physiotherapists, but she has also fully mastered how to make prosthetic devices.
Van der Stelt now operates as an equal sparring partner, which has justifiably earned her a PhD position (in Nijmegen), is a member of the board of the 3D Sierra Leone foundation and is frequently asked to collaborate with software companies. Prof. Michel van de Putten, Chair of the Vooijs award jury: “Merel van der Stelt’s research is a wonderful example of the use of engineering and technology to solve actual clinical problems. The way in which Merel personally visited patients and realised products is extraordinary. She always worked highly independently without losing track of the objective. Her work is admirable and innovative and greatly improves patients’ quality of life.”
The award is named after Peter Vooijs and this was the eighth time that it has been presented. This year was the first time that TU Delft TM students also competed in the Vooijs award. Professor Vooijs was affiliated with UT as the Medical Director of the MIRA research institute and as the Scientific Director of the Technical Medicine educational programme. Prof. Vooijs always emphasised the value of clinical research, and he put countless hours into tirelessly supervising internships. In doing so, he laid the foundations for the clinical relevance of the Technical Medicine educational programme in the broader scope of the medical arts. Ten Technical Medicine alumni from Twente and Delft were nominated for this year’s award. The jury selected the three best nominees. In addition to Van der Stelt, these were Matthijs Fitski and Maaike Dotinga.