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RIVM director Jaap van Dissel to receive honorary doctorate from UM

RIVM director Jaap van Dissel to receive honorary doctorate from UM

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Still from interview Nieuwsuur

MAASTRICHT. Jaap van Dissel, director of the Netherlands National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM) and professor of internal medicine at Leiden University, will receive an honorary doctorate from Maastricht University during the Dies celebrations on Friday 29 January. The doctorate is being awarded because of the combination of scientific work with a social role, the UM writes in a press release. 

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in spring 2020, Jaap van Dissel has become a Dutch celebrity. As chairman of the Outbreak Management Team (OMT), he assisted prime minister Mark Rutte during press conferences. Here in Maastricht, they were quick to "notice" the fact that "right from the beginning of the pandemic he took great effort to consistently explain as clearly as possible the scientific foundations on which the advice was based," the UM writes. The plan to award him with an honorary doctorate dates back months ago, "at the end of spring 2020".

Honorary supervisor is UM professor Christian Hoebe, head of the GGD Zuid-Limburg’s Institute for Public Health and the Environment and a member of the OMT too. In the press release, he states: “As chairman of the Outbreak Management Team, Jaap van Dissel fulfils a central role in the COVID-19 pandemic. Thanks to him, science has become an important beacon and a compass for the cabinet.” Also: “Never before has there been so much attention every day for the field of infectious diseases. Everyone now knows the meaning of terms such as droplet infection, basic reproduction number, contact tracing, and transmission, because of the briefings by Van Dissel: lectures for the whole country." 

The theme of Maastricht University’s Dies celebrations (its 45th anniversary) is recognition and appreciation, a new system involving all Dutch universities and organisations such as the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW) and science financiers NWO and ZonMw are involved. The competition for research funds and the pressure of work are killing, the Higher Education Press Agency previously wrote. For scientists who want to climb the career ladder, there is only one thing that counts: their research achievements. That has to stop. Universities want to focus less on long lists of publications in good journals. Good education, strong leadership, the impact of research and (for doctors) good patient care will count for more in an assessment. One of the advocates of the new system of ‘recognition and appreciation’ is Maastricht rector Rianne Letschert. 

The awarding of the honorary doctorate and the Dies celebrations can be followed via a livestream. 

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