EAPC Early Researcher Award: the gains and pains of winning

Jenny T van der Steen, PhD, VU University Medical Center, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, Department of general practice & elderly care medicine, Amsterdam, the Netherlands, explains how winning the EAPC Early Researcher Award has impacted on her career in palliative care.  Now it’s your turn to enter for 2013!

Jenny van der Steen

Dr Jenny van der Steen

Living from project to project and striving to secure funding before your project ends, our team was keen to explore any opportunities to keep going. We therefore welcomed the opportunity to apply for the first EAPC award for those with no ‘academic or clinical position,’ now renamed ‘Early Researcher Award.’  Having trained as an engineer and epidemiologist, there was no convenient way back to professional work. Moreover, with increasing responsibilities and opportunities, my preference to stay in research increased in parallel.

After preparing for an amazing number of hours, the initial shock of having won the first prize turned into confidence to come up with something interesting for a plenary session. The splendid opening ceremony of the EAPC 2009 congress in Vienna by the Queen of Sweden, who spoke about her personal experiences with palliative care in dementia, convinced me that the EAPC was the right place to be for palliative care in dementia, and I felt honoured to be there.

What happened afterwards?
I reverted from an exclusively US orientation to a mostly European orientation. This was in part due to increased opportunities to network within Europe. A very positive development, which may be related to winning the award, was that I received a career award, and consequently an employment contract.A permanent position meant that I could stay in the field and continue to be involved in EAPC activities – and I felt very welcome in the EAPC community. Looking back, being part of a congress scientific committee and editorial board is immensely interesting enabling you to get to know the ‘client’ side of the coin. Further, with a highly supportive team, we could combine evidence and expert views into EAPC recommendations on palliative care in dementia. This was a task I had hesitated to take on initially, with a fixed-term appointment that would end soon.

Any negative effects? Perhaps…
It was in Glasgow in 2010, when I suddenly realised that this was my last congress with time off, allowing myself a flexible schedule. However, I enjoyed the peak workload around the next congresses more than I had anticipated, perhaps because time investments really do pay off. I also realised that winning a prize does not mean that everyone wishes to cooperate or collaborate; some may prefer competition.

Of course, this is a ‘n=1’ case description. What might have happened without the prize? I’m not sure, but I might still be doing research. Although going back to engineering would be unlikely, it might be research in a different field.

What is certain is that the prize has helped me to move on, enabling me to use my experience more efficiently for very vulnerable people, and this is very motivating. I hope that, in parallel to the transition in my professional life, this will contribute to greater recognition of palliative care needs in dementia care, along with geriatrics and long-term care learning about palliative care.

Enter now for the 2013 Early Researcher Award

  • Click here for details of the 2013 Early Researcher Award
  • Submit your application online by 5pm, 30 November, 2012
  • Click here to read reports from this year’s ERA winners.

The EAPC is looking forward to your nomination!

Coming up in the European Journal
You can also read a longer article by Jenny and other former award winners of the EAPC Early Research Award in a future issue of the European Journal of Palliative Care. If you already have a web-based subscription to the EJPC you will be able to download and print this issue plus all articles in the EJPC archive. Members of the EAPC receive discounted subscription rates to the EJPCclick here  to find out more and subscribe online.

This entry was posted in EAPC Researcher Awards, EAPC Taskforces/special projects, EAPC White Papers, Guidelines & Recommendations and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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