Being inspired @ work – Professor Lieve Van den Block wins EAPC Early Researcher Award 2014

Professor Lieve Van den Block, Palliative Care Researcher, Brussels, Belgium, is the winner of the 2014 European Association for Palliative Care Early Researcher Award. Here she talks about her contribution to palliative care research that has led to this award.

Professor Lieve Van den Block speaking at 8th EAPC World Research Conference today in Lleida

I am really proud and honoured to receive this important award from the EAPC and I welcome the opportunity to share some of my research with you.

As a clinical psychologist I have always been interested in studying human nature, health and wellbeing, particularly in understudied research areas. While my research career might just as well have developed in the field of Intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) or youth delinquency and developmental psychology –my first steps in research– I relatively quickly found my way to the field of palliative care and end-of-life decision-making. I started in the End-of-Life Care Research Group of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and University of Ghent in 2003. Being part of this newly developing research group, and having inspiring colleagues and supervisors, made this journey extraordinary, interesting and instructive, both in terms of research skills and complementary skills such as project management and international collaboration.

Professor Van den Block receives the Early Researcher Award from Dr Christoph Ostgathe

During these past 10 years I have developed a particular interest for palliative care in primary care and palliative care among people with non-malignant diseases, more specifically among older people and people with dementia. While I studied a broad range of topics relevant to palliative care, a golden thread throughout my work so far has also been international comparative research. For me, palliative care is truly an exciting branch of science that has huge potential to improve people’s quality of life in the last years of life, and I hope my future research can somewhat contribute to empirically substantiate this claim.

One major achievement for me so far, was obtaining my PhD in Medical Social Sciences in 2008 under the supervision of Reginald Deschepper and Luc Deliens. I was the first to use an existing public health surveillance network – Belgian Sentinel Network of General Practitioners – to monitor end-of-life care on a population-based level (SENTIMELC study) which later became the EURO SENTIMELC study involving three other countries (Netherlands, Italy and Spain) performing the same data collections. A first EU-funded FP7 project from which I gained a lot of experience, satisfaction and inspiration was the coordination of EURO IMPACT (2010-2014, a Marie Curie Initial Training Network developing a European multidisciplinary, multi-professional research training framework) and working with its 16 researchers and 11 partners.

My future work will include the coordination of PACE, an EU-funded FP7 research project (2014-2019) performing comparative effectiveness research in long-term care facilities in Europe (Belgium, Netherlands, UK, Italy, Poland and Finland) and evaluating the effectiveness of introducing an early integrated palliative care approach. With this project, we aim to raise awareness among EU policy makers and provide the necessary evidence to underpin the need for further integration of palliative care in long-term care. The question that kept on puzzling me was: if no one sees it, did you really do it? We can provide important evidence of the added value of palliative care, but it is also our task as researchers to disseminate well and have our work seen by those we want to influence.

If this is the place to offer some advice to researchers who are just starting out (besides the advice to follow their instincts), I would like to borrow a few words from Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

To find out more…