“I want us to present ourselves clearly as a joint Health Campus”

New FHML dean Annemie Schols


She is proud of Maastricht University, MUMC+, and the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences, and dearly wants to make her contribution. Still, Annemie Schols, the new dean of FHML per 1 June, thought long and hard before she sent off her job application letter. “A new step should suit who you are. I think for me it was the logical next step.”

According to Annemie Schols, the power of FHML lies in its diversity. “It is not just a Faculty of Medicine; we also have Biomedical Sciences and Health Sciences. The research schools work together, there is MUMC+, which is both a university hospital and a regional hospital, and the surrounding network. There is a low threshold for working together here. Researchers and clinicians can just drop in to see each other. That is a tremendous advantage, something we should emphasise more.”

In general, the faculty is doing well, it is financially healthy, so there are no far-reaching changes in the pipeline. What then? Schols feels that there are many opportunities to make collaboration more flexible. “To be more divers and innovative, we have to look beyond the limits of departments, research institutes and faculties. The link to the actual field of practice, with MUMC+ is also important. This already happens, but I want to stimulate and facilitate it more.” She also feels that FHML could present itself more clearly. “I want to radiate a clear image of a joint Health Campus, so not just us and the hospital, but also FPN and FSE, which has also been based here since recently.”

As far as education is concerned, the faculty needs to keep a close watch. “Are education and research in tune with each other? What expertise is needed? Sustainability for example, is becoming more and more important, as well as technology of course. How can we weave that into our education? On the other hand, we have the organisation of education and the work pressure that results from that. We want satisfied students but also satisfied employees. We must prevent the pressure of work from becoming too high, when people are not doing something because they like what they do, but because it’s work. But in appointing me, the faculty hasn’t brought in an education expert. So, I have decided to approach matters with a rather blank slate and in the first instance to just listen well.”

It shows her as a leader. “If I have a clear vision, I can be decisive, but in careful consideration of colleagues; I am not impulsive. If I don’t have a clear vision yet, I will first gather information before I formulate a point of view. I also have no problem putting someone else forward who knows more about a particular domain. Of course, as a dean, I will remain responsible, but that doesn’t mean that I am always the best person for a certain task.”

Schols feels that it is important to stay in touch with people within the faculty. “I want to know what the ideas are, on the shop floor are as well as among the students. Initiatives such as the climate march, in which I participated, the Health University, or the Global Health Festival in Lumière recently, those are little gems. That is all down to the students. It gives me energy.”

The same applies to research. “That is just part of my character. Only yesterday I sent off a subsidy application. It is good to go through such a process again; the deadlines, the stress. Besides, it gives you more ideas. Of course, the deanship will soon take priority, but I have always managed to combine it well with my job as Nutrim director.”    

She sees it as an advantage that – being an internal candidate – she already knows the organisation. “There is something to be said for a fresh pair of eyes, but I think it would be quite a job for an outsider. I personally wouldn’t want to be a dean anywhere else than Maastricht. I think that it was the right decision for now, because the chairperson from the hospital board, Marja van Dieijen, is also retiring (just like Schols’ predecessor Albert Scherpbier, ed.). That is a lot of change all at once.”

The fact that she is the first female dean at FHML, is not something that Schols thinks about. “It doesn’t make it any more special. I have often been the first or only female at a committee table, I believe I was the first female director of a research school. It has never been a problem for me, maybe because I have grown up with brothers. What I feel is important is that you can do something for the younger ones – both men and women – by sharing your experiences about how you organise things.”

“I want us to present ourselves clearly as a joint Health Campus”
annemie schols
Author: Cleo Freriks
Joey Roberts
Tags: FHML,dean

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