WOMEN IN CANCER PROFILE: From bedside to bench and back: my journey in thyroid disease

    1. Kristien Boelaert1,2
    1. 1Reader in Endocrinology, Institute of Metabolism and Systems Research, College of Medical and Dental Sciences, University of Birmingham, Birmingham, UK
    2. 2Centre for Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, Birmingham Health Partners, Birmingham, UK
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to K Boelaert; Email: k.boelaert{at}bham.ac.uk

    I am the oldest of three girls in a Belgian family. I was born in the USA in 1970, whilst my parents were studying at the University of Wisconsin. Upon completion of their postgraduate studies, my parents returned to their native country Belgium when I was aged one. From a young age I was fascinated by medicine and in secondary school, human biology was my favourite subject. Whilst neither of my parents is medically trained, they always encouraged me and my sisters to have an inquisitive spirit and fuelled a thirst for knowledge and discovery. Following completion of my secondary school studies in 1988, I entered medical school at the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, to fulfil my aspiration of becoming a doctor.

    The medical course in Belgium in those days encompassed 3 years of pre-clinical and 4 years of clinical studies. Although I was thrilled to study subjects such as physiology, anatomy and biochemistry during the preclinical years, it was the study of pathology and diseases as well as the patient interaction during the clinical years of study, which affirmed my feeling that I had made the right career choice. In 1993, during my 6th year of study, I was given the unique opportunity of participating in an Erasmus exchange programme, which allowed me to complete a period of elective placements in Dublin, Ireland and in Kirkcaldy, Scotland, studying Obstetrics and Gynaecology and Paediatrics respectively. During my placement on the neonatal unit in Kirkcaldy, I befriended Bhaskar, a junior trainee in Paediatrics and fell in love. As I still had to complete about 18 months of training following my elective in Scotland, I returned to Belgium, maintaining a long-distance relationship through sporadic phone calls, occasional visits and regular letter writing. When I qualified as MD (Summa cum Laude) in …

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