29 August 2019

My name is John Heesakkers, urologist at the department of Urology, theme Reconstructive and regenerative medicine. 

When you were a kid what did you want to be when you grew up? Can you tell us something about your child years. 

Pilot of course but finally I did not pursue this.
I was born in Lieshout, Noord Brabant as the second child of the five children that together with my parents composes our family. My father was a conductor of a couple of choirs and music ensembles, my mother was the conductor at home. Our family was and still is completely dedicated to music. So we were raised as best as possible in harmony. 

What was your previous academic training, where did you study and why that study? 

I studied Medicine in Nijmegen, started in 1979. I finally chose that study because it is a very broad field and more or less left all options open with respect to brain and dexterity. I did not have a clear cut idea what the implications would be because I was the first one ever in the family to study Medicine. After two years at the Rotterdam Business School and compulsory military service I started my training as urologist in Maastricht. From the year 2000 on I’m in Nijmegen. 

The RIMLS motto is: ‘Today’s molecules for tomorrow’s medicine’. What does this mean for you? 

For me it is just a catchy slogan that will most likely be replace by another one in 5 year’s time. Slogans as well as mission statements most of the time do not distinguish institutes from other institutes and don’t tell anything about the quality of the institute. A better one would be:  ‘With today’s molecules we will have 50 new treatments by 2050 for tomorrow’s medicine’. That’s  measurable and creates commitment.

Who is your great example as scientists? And please give a motivation why. 

Ptolemaeus. For me it is intriguing and fascinating how a living person in 100 AD has an idea about the shape of planet earth (a sphere) and is capable of calculating the circumference fairly accurate. And that he did this in an era without maps, GPS nor drones.       

Which research discovery that you have made has made you most proud? 

We challenged treatments for bladder pain syndrome claiming that the ones that introduced the treatment even did not know what the urothelium was composed of. In the URL we made the structure and topography of especially the GAG layer visible and showed how that very treatment was working and also how imperfect the treatment scheme was.

Given unlimited finance what experiment would you perform?

We would try to unravel the working mechanisms of  various treatments for urge incontinence with fMRI and molecular  and try to improve these treatments. The real thing that is needed is an artificial bladder or bladder transplantation. If that is available difficult and suboptimal reconstructions with intestine are not needed anymore. 

Nominate a colleague to be in the spotlight and what would you like to ask him or her?

Try Dick Janssen; he has a very special story to tell.

What does your working area (desk, office) look like and what does it say about you (or your research)?

My office is filled with art pieces since I’m an art lover and collector. There is a heroic picture of my son and me climbing the Mont Ventoux when he was 12 and I a few years older. I’m very proud of that but that is because of a special reason. And tow easy chairs to relax in. For me that all means that life can be beautiful, quite often is challenging and you need time to relax end recharge.    

What type of person are you, quick insights:

a) Mac or PC?
PC, Mac is too adventurous for me and a disaster at conferences where you have to upload presentations
b) Theater or cinema?
Both, movies to relax because of the better seating and theatre because it is more exclusive
c) Dine out or dine in? 
I prefer to dine in because you can do whatever you like but dining out  is perfect as well (depending on the food)
d) Ferrari or Fiat?
Citroen DS. Fare more style and revolutionary.
e) Shopaholic or chocoholic?
Wineoholic, internet is for shopping and chocolate causes kidney stones
f) Culture or Nature?
Both. Art and nature both can be breath-taking. 

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