What is your background?: I was born in Belgium, in Tervuren, which is a small town near Brussels. I am the youngest of three sons and together with my brothers I went to the local high school, just a few blocks from where I lived. After high school, I attended the Erasmus College of Nursing in Brussels and started working as an ICU Nurse in Brussels.
After a few years, I got interested in starting a career as a cardiovascular perfusionist, which is a person who runs the heartlung machine during cardiac surgery. My studies brought me to the University Hospitals of the Catholic University Leuven, where I gained experience in perfusion and started teaching at the Perfusion School. After seven years, I went back to Brussels and worked at the University Hospital of Brussels and a local hospital in Aalst, Belgium. I stayed there for 11 years, working as a clinical perfusionist. My work has brought me to the United States in the form of attending and organizing conferences and at a certain point in my life, I decided to move to the United States and marry my wife here.
What brought you to Kirkwood and why?: My certificates and diplomas were obtained in Belgium, during a period when there was not even a system of Masters and Bachelors and so none of those degrees were recognized in the USA. In order to be able to continue caring for patients and teaching future perfusionists, I needed a degree in an adjacent field of healthcare, and Respiratory Therapy was an excellent stepping stone. It will allow me to become a Respiratory Therapist with a diversification as an ECMO Specialist, which is a form of extracorporeal technology in which I have gained a long experience.
I contacted Kirkwood Community College and the friendly and helpful people have helped me tremendously and I have found a warm and welcoming community, here at the Cedar Rapids campus. Both colleague students and teachers, staff and personnel have made this back-to-school experience very pleasant and some people have become good friends.
What is your program of study and what interests you about it?: My program of study is Respiratory Therapy, as it is the closest (and easiest) path to becoming an ECMO Specialist. I have been a perfusionist and nurse already, so I thought it would be interesting to do something different. My experience as an ICU nurse and perfusionist certainly help me in understanding the materials, but that doesn’t mean that it is a walk in the park. The education is fast-paced, especially during the summer semester (!) and it delves deep into the pathology, treatment and evidence-based care of the patient with respiratory disorders. The challenges for me are the differences in units and the language difference. Luckily, I get lots of support from my colleagues and the instructors.
There is also a very big cultural difference between Belgium and the United States. You’ll never ever see me dip my French fries into vanilla ice cream… Give me mayo, anytime!
Are you involved in anything else on campus? If so, what and why?: I try to tutor other students, although during this summer semester I had to temporarily put a halt to that, because the time we have outside courses is very limited. I have great respect for people who are working and studying and on top of that, often take care of children while they attend college. I attend the meetings of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, where I try to be actively involved by discussing ideas for activities. Luckily, they have summer recess as well, but after summer semester, I will probably pick up tutoring, PTK meetings and also continue working freelance as Patient Safety Analyst for a Patient Safety Organization.
Are you involved in anything off of campus?: Through my former career, I’m involved in reviewing articles for scientific journals, giving presentations at international meetings and working in committees to promote evidence-based practice and education. At this moment, I’m preparing some presentations on cool topics like the connection between your heart, brain and gut. There’s some interesting research being done that I would like to explore and publish and talk about.
What do you do for fun?: Most of the time, you’ll find me reading, both fiction and scientific stuff, as I have a broad interest in many disciplines. The big steps that technology and science have taken lately and the crazy inventions and discoveries that are being made, have always been of interest to me. Next to that, I just like to relax. Enjoy the ‘silence’ of a forest, walking in the snow, listening to music. One thing that always works for me to relax, is going for ice-cream at the local ice-cream shop. I call it: going to therapy…
Where do you see yourself in five years?: My goal is to be able to work in an environment that promotes humane and compassionate patient care, based on evidence, and protocol-driven. An environment where it is encouraged to think critically and discuss therapeutic plans in a multidisciplinary fashion. To combine that with an educational position, would be phenomenal. So, a good combination of clinical, educational and academical work would be very interesting to me.