Photographer:Fotograaf: Joey Roberts/Simone Golob
Stefania Tuinder inspired by Grazia Salimbeni
Stefania Tuinder was studying to be a plastic surgeon when she met professor Grazia Salimbeni at a congress: a plastic surgeon who has world-wide esteem because of her pioneering work in the field of facial paralysis. She was immediately sold on the idea.
“She is a small dainty woman, but she has more power than a hundred people together”, says Tuinder. “She spoke very quietly and clearly about her research.” She didn’t make the results prettier than they were, Tuinder remembers. “She is honest and open, and chooses research that helps our field to move forward. She follows her passion and is not trying to get as many publications or citation scores as possible. She is also a terrific surgeon, technically very good. I immediately thought at the time: I want to learn from her, I want to see how she operates.”
During the summer holidays – Italian-born Tuinder studied in Varese, a town near Milan – took herself to Pisa in order to work with Salimbeni for a time. It was there that she learned how openly this woman (now in her seventies, but still active) approached her younger colleagues. “She is enthusiastic, really listens to your ideas. It was because of her that I was able to do part of my study in Maastricht in 2004. Last year, she sat in the corona during my PhD presentation. Very special. Recently we gave a course together in Maastricht, on the reconstruction of the face.”
The fact that Salimbeni, like Tuinder herself, also combines work with motherhood, makes the bond with the Italian professor even stronger: “She knows what you are talking about, even though that combination was a completely different story in her days.” They are close, go out to dinner together, but Tuinder would never refer to her as her friend. “Not because she doesn’t mean that much to me. That’s not it. She is an example to me; I have a lot of respect for her. She is on a higher level than me, that is how I see it.”
Yes, she shares with professor Salimbeni the passion for facial reconstruction, but she has another passion: breast reconstruction with the body’s own tissue. She shares that with American researcher Bob Allen, the founding father of breast reconstruction with the body’s own tissue. “I will be operating with him next week in New York. I have developed a method using part of the upper leg for breast reconstruction. Just like professor Salimbeni, he is very enthusiastic and very honest. He is also open to new ideas from young people. He listens to people who are still nobodies in this field. It shows his greatness.”