Who is or was your mentor/Who inspires you? How has their research/ clinical practice impacted yours?
I would have to say that one of my mentors is Prof. Amanda C de C Williams (University College London, United Kingdom). We started to collaborate at the start of my PhD project because her work on the evolutionary basis of pain expression and the relevance of interpersonal factors influencing pain expression directly inspired my work. It has always been inspiring to see how someone of her accomplishments and responsibilities remained very approachable, kind, and open to sit down for hour-long chats to discuss ideas with a young researcher like myself. One of the most direct influences of her thinking on my work is the integration of evolutionary psychology and its relevance for pain, especially regarding pain communication. Moreover, we share an appreciation for the importance of interpersonal factors in pain, both in the scientific study of pain but also in clinical practice.
Do you have collaborators? Why did you choose to work them and what problem are you trying to solve?
One network that I am currently embedded in is the Special Interest Group on Social Aspects of Pain (SocSIG) led by Prof. Claire Ashton-James. Together we try to investigate and raise awareness about the social context in which pain occurs. This dimension of the biopsychosocial model of pain receives a lot less attention than biological and psychological factors yet is just as influential and relevant. Social context here may refer to intrapersonal, interpersonal, familial, group, occupational, societal, and cultural factors.
I really enjoy my collaboration with this SIG because it is a highly international group with members from across the globe with a large variety of expertise and interests (e.g., clinical work, fundamental research) and experience in the field (junior researchers but also well-established senior researchers) who all are united in their quest to put a larger focus on interpersonal dynamics in pain. So far, we have mainly focused on conceptual work that aims to formulate our goals and research directions for the future. It is an exciting time to work in such a specialized group because the attention to, and interest in social factors of, pain is currently growing, especially with the COVID-19 pandemic putting a spotlight on social determinants of health. There is still so much to discover.
Why did you become an IASP member?/Why are you an IASP member?
Originally, I became an IASP member because several people I worked with recommended it to me and were members as well. This became especially relevant when I attended my first World Congress of Pain in Yokohama, Japan. Now I am a member because I enjoy access to educational and topical workshops which can be found online, because I am a member of an IASP SIG, and because I plan to attend more IASP events in the future.
What is your favorite member benefit?
I always thought it was great that IASP had special offers and programs to make it possible for junior researchers to attend a World Congress (e.g., travel grants). World Congresses can be really transformative experiences in the early stages of a career, especially because they give direct and easy access to accomplished researchers working in the field of pain and other young researchers at similar stages of their career.
What is your favorite… sport, food, travel destination, etc.?
I do love to travel and combine it with my love for photography. Some of my most memorable trips were, in fact, related to conferences. For instance, I absolutely loved experiencing Japan during my visit to the World Congress in Yokohama. It is a beautiful country where the modern coexists with the traditional, where you can have amazing food, and where you can get lost as an outsider looking in. Another place that is close to my heart is British Columbia and Alberta in Canada. My wife is from Canada and we spend several weeks wandering misty beaches, rain forests, mountains, and marveling at turquoise lakes. It is definitely one of the most beautiful places I have ever been to, and I would love to go back, this time taking my son along.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Echoing my favorite travel locations, I think I would love to live in British Columbia, close to nature and big city life. Alternatively, I spend several months living in Bristol in the United Kingdom, which is a really vibrant city with amazing food, street art, beautiful parks and close to the water. It does feel a bit like a second home so I would love to go back. However, I am really happy living in the Netherlands, and I think it has a lot to offer. Maybe it would be nice to live in a place where most days are sunny though.