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The path to a professorship via the Netherlands

The Centre for Medical Ethics has acquired two Scientia Fellows. Marit Helene Hem and Elleke Landeweer from the Netherlands are undertaking a one-year exchange as part of their career development towards a professorship.

Marit Helene Hem

Researcher Marit Helene Hem. Photo: Moment studio

Marit Helene Hem has been temporarily employed at UiO since 2002 and is constantly looking for new funding in order to continue with her projects.

In the autumn, she discovered an exciting opportunity that also gives her career a nudge in the right direction. Scientia Fellows is co-funded by the EU (40%) and MedFak/Helsam/SME (60%) and gives postdoctoral research fellows an opportunity to build international networks and work purposefully towards a professorship.

After a brief research exchange in the Netherlands in 2011, Hem was pleasantly surprised how much her stay meant for further research collaboration. She is now looking forward to spending a whole year developing her collaboration with the Free University Medical Centre (VUmc) in Amsterdam and expanding her network of research communities in neighbouring countries such as Belgium and Germany.

Focus on career development in the application

Initially, Hem found completing the application to be quite overwhelming and difficult. Research Support at the Faculty of Medicine helped her to understand what is unique about Scientia Fellows and how to write the application to match the announcement.

Scientia Fellows puts great focus on international cooperation and the applicant’s career development. The application must clearly show how the project will help to develop the applicant’s career. In addition, the researcher must provide both a personal motivation letter and a career plan.

‘Writing such an application took a great deal of thought, and I was not used to writing so much about myself. However, I found the process to be extremely useful,’ says Marit Helene.

She would definitely recommend other researchers who are in temporary positions to apply. It is a wonderful opportunity to build the international network needed to be taken seriously in one’s chosen field.

Incoming researcher from the Netherlands

The Centre for Medical Ethics has had a long-standing cooperation with VUmc. Albert Molewijk splits his time evenly between the two centres and has helped with the application for an incoming researcher. Landeweer, who arrived in Norway on 1 September, has also visited us before. The Scientia Fellows concept was a good opportunity to combine the applications for Hem and Landeweer in order to strengthen the cooperation that was already well underway.

‘It was nice to be able to combine inbound and outbound research projects in such a way that the applications were linked to each other, but with a different emphasis,’ says Hem.

The exchange year will also be used to further develop a Horizon 2020 application. Here, the cooperation may eventually boost the entire research community in research on ethics in mental health care. The EU application will be managed from the Centre for Medical Ethics. In addition to the centre in the Netherlands, research communities in Sweden and England are involved with the application, and several research communities in other countries are considering joining the collaboration.

‘We hope that Scientia Fellows will offer a boost to our research field for several years to come. Our ambition is to create a theoretical, empirical and ethical basis for how families and networks can be involved in mental health care. The ethical focus in particular is new,’ says Hem.

The researchers will develop methods and teaching materials to involve families in patient care. They will develop systematic ethical reflection, which can be used to improve practice in morally challenging situations in the health service.

Mental health issues and family relations

Mental health issues affect not only the patient, but also their family and network.

‘Historically, in the field of mental health care, distorted family dynamics were viewed as the reason why many patients became ill. Parents have often been held responsible for those who are sick. Today, tide has turned, and the health authorities advise that involving the family in the treatment of the patient can be beneficial,’ explains Hem.

Health professionals have a special responsibility to facilitate dialogue and ensure effective involvement of patients and relatives. At the same time, researchers realize that family relationships can be complicated. Coercion exacerbates the difficult dynamics in a family relationship. For example, a parent may initiate an involuntary admission.

‘Perhaps we should sometimes wait a bit before establishing a dialogue between the different parties. Some conflicts can also be too big to be resolved. In such cases, it may be better to work with others in the patient’s network,’ says Hem.

In the Netherlands, the informal network is expected to act as a support for the patient. This is a trend that will probably come to Norway as well. Landeweer will continue her research on ‘informal care’, while Hem will concentrate on health professionals and the use of coercion in mental health care.

The road ahead

During the research exchange, Hem will complete two articles from an ongoing project about relatives' views on involuntary admissions and their involvement. She will then undertake a literature search on these topics. In addition, she is working on the application to Horizon 2020 to ensure that the collaboration between Norway and the Netherlands can continue well into the future.

When Hem returns to Oslo, she will receive funding from Scientia Fellows for a year of research work. Providing this funding ensures that experiences from research exchanges are integrated into the applicant’s research community.

By Anbjørg Kolaas
Published June 20, 2016 12:50 PM - Last modified Mar. 15, 2019 10:11 AM