Profile – Dr Joni Gilissen, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

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Dr Joni Gilissen


Dr Joni Gilissen

Job title:

Senior postdoctoral researcher

Place of work / study:

  • End-of-Life Care Research Group, Department of Family Medicine and Chronic Care, Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Brussels, Belgium
  • Department of Public Health and Primary Care, Universiteit Gent, Ghent, Belgium
  • Affiliated to: Centre for Chronic Care & Serious Illnes, The Mongan Institute, Harvard Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, USA
  • Affiliated to: Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health, Atlantic Institute & Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI)

Area of Research:

I have a background in Social Work and Social Profit & Public Management, a joint PhD in biomedical sciences (Biomedical Ethics & Law) and social health sciences (Family Medicine & Chronic Care). I am a Senior Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health and an alumna B.A.E.F and Fulbright Fellow. My work has centered around early integration of palliative care and navigation for older people with serious illnesses (including cancer and different types of dementia), in different types of care settings as well as the community.

How is your work funded?

My work has been supported by: Pilot Award for Global Brain Health Leaders by US Alzheimer’s Association & Alzheimer’s Society UK;  Maurange Fund by Koning Boudewijnstichting; COVID-19 Solidarity Grant by Atlantic Institute & Rhodes Trust Oxford; the McKinsey & Company Scientific Award by Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek; BAEF Postdoctoral Research Fellowship by Belgian American Educational Foundation; Fulbright Postdoctoral Fellowship by US Fulbright Commission; Atlantic Fellowship for Equity in Brain Health at Global Brain Health Institute (GBHI); and an INTERDEM Academy Award by the pan-European INTERDEM network.

I am currently involved in projects which are funded by: EU HORIZON 2020, Fonds Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek, Vlaams Agentschap Zorg en Gezondheid, and The Alzheimer’s Society.

Tell us a little about yourself:

I’m turning 33 next year. Mother of (almost) two – to add some more spice to my overloaded schedule, haha! I live in Belgium but would very much welcome another opportunity to work in another country. I take every opportunity to explore other parts of the world.  In my free time, I try to spend as much time as I can outdoors and I like being active. My number one activity is hiking, but I also cycle, climb and swim when I have a chance. Although I am open-minded, I can be quite territorial in the kitchen.

I am very much committed to the quality of the programs that I lead or actively participate I, and I am a firm believer that all stakeholders and proposed end-users of all new initiatives to improve healthcare and associated outcomes, should be informed about our research results, preferably be involved from the start. Science is hard, many of my peers can vouch for that. But communicating science often brings me the joy of doing what I do every day. It’s often when science is eloquently communicated that I feel that all the hard work is justified.

Tell us a fun fact about yourself:

Although I’m a hardcore scientist, I’m the one who does not want to say something positive about an inconclusive situation out of fear of “jinxing it”; and, if you ask me how many people there were at the concert, I most probably say “a thousand” while it was actually only 200 or so.

Why did you choose to work in dementia?

Since it is a heavily underserved population when it comes to early integration of palliative care and is confronted with quite some inequities when it comes to access to timely and optimal care altogether.

What single piece of advice would you give to an early career researcher?

Go and find yourself a dedicated mentor in another field or research department with whom you have regularly scheduled meetings in an informal setting to discuss whatever is on your mind.

What book are you reading right now? Would you recommend it?

Before the coffee gets cold by Toshikazu Kawaguchi. The book is one long scene and was originally written as a (theatre) play. It tells of a café in Tokyo that allows its customers to travel back in time if they return before their coffee gets cold. A must-read!

Can we find you on Twitter & Instagram?

Follow @JoniGillissen on Instagram

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