Health Innovation Fellowship

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Our fellows go above and beyond!

In this second blog post from BENEFIT Fellows 2021, Luis Oliveira and Carla Juanes Duran look back on their journey so far.

As you may know from our programme structure, interdisciplinarity of the teams is an important success factor of any Biodesign fellowship and our 8 enthusiastic fellows each adapted their lives tremendously to join the first edition of the BENEFIT programme.

What you may not know yet is that Carla and Luis went above and beyond by relocating from their home countries (during the covid-19 pandemic!) to join the programme! High time to ask them how they look back on that bold move.

Carla Juanes Duran and Luis Oliveira

One representative of the Iberic Peninsula per team

Luis is on the Belgian team where his role focuses on business management although he also has a background in biotech and molecular biomedicine.

Within the Dutch team, Carla is the engineer which fits with her background in biomedical engineering. Coincidentally, they both come from the Iberic Peninsula.

Luis initially moved to Belgium to work in medtech; the pandemic made it all a bit complicated but it was manageable. For him being in Belgium is "the right place in terms of healthcare and medtech opportunities. Coming from Portugal, the weather is the biggest change (and the good food, not gonna lie 😄) but overall I'm loving Belgium and everything it has to offer."

Luis learned about the fellowship through a colleague and found it was a perfect fit since he wanted to learn how to properly innovate in healthcare. He is working in his company's medical device innovation team.

Thanks to my amazing work colleagues and their flexibility I'm able to do this fellowship and maintain a full-time job. I am very lucky for that and what I am learning fits my job perfectly. Not that juggling both things is easy, it comes with a set of challenges that I’m still learning to work through.” 

Carla moved from Spain to the Netherlands to join the Dutch team.

BENEFIT was too good an opportunity to miss. At the beginning, it was a struggle finding a place to live, arranging all the documents for registration, and spending more time away from my loved ones. However, it was worth it. Not only am I pleased with the programme; discovering the Netherlands has also been quite the experience. I’ve met a lot of people, explored a new culture, and visited new places. It has been an exciting time and I look forward to what it has left to show me!

How did you experience the clinical immersions?

Luis' clinical immersion in Belgium was at the Daywards Oncology where patients receive different types of treatments for oncological pathologies.

Luckily, I had never spent much time in a hospital before. Having the opportunity to observe healthcare professionals in action and working with them to find problems worth solving has been an amazing experience. University Hospitals Leuven (UZ Leuven) is a well-oiled machine where the patient is always in the centre. It really puts into perspective the intense efforts and passion to deliver the best care possible to patients. Even though the level of organisation and quality of care is very high - with patients coming from other countries just to receive treatment here - oncology still is one of the biggest fights in medicine, with a lot of room for innovation and improvement.”

The Dutch team carried out the clinical immersion in two different GP practices, following the day-to-day activities in the primary healthcare system. 

Carla’s Dutch level before starting the clinical immersion was basic. She therefore experienced the immersion in a different way than her teammates who are native Dutch speakers.

My role focused more on the non-verbal communication and the work structure of the GP practices. Also, being from another country, I was able to give a different perspective about the healthcare system. In Spain, healthcare is managed by the government and all the GPs work in a similar way. Whilst in the Netherlands, they work more independently and the costs are reimbursed by the insurance companies.”

How she was approaching the GP visits was also different from the rest of the team.

Between patients, I was reviewing with the GP what had just happened during the visit. They kindly explained to me what I couldn’t understand and answered any questions I had.

What's next?

The next step in our journey is to identify the most addressable need and build something that is impactful and delivers a solution to an unmet need. We are very excited about this, as we want to create something, hold it in our hands and bring it to patients as soon as possible. Programmes like the BENEFIT fellowship are of extreme importance to ensure that Europe remains competitive in the healthcare space and we look forward to continuing this adventure and experience."

Pursue your passion

"We cannot leave without a big thank you to all the doctors, nurses and staff members that hosted us and helped us navigate the complexity of the hospitals and the healthcare system, and to all our mentors that keep on challenging us to be better and smarter. We also want to give a piece of advice to those interested about learning more and joining programmes like this one, or moving to a different country to pursue your passion: Dare to do it and don’t be afraid to be a fool, you’ll always have the support of amazing professionals, mentors and your colleagues.”