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Alumnus Charlotte Poot developed a hospital app for children

Charlotte Poot (31) is co-founder and chair of Hospital Hero, an app that prepares children for a hospital visit. She studied and obtained her PhD at the LUMC. Through various specialisations and internships, she has learnt about several fields of medicine. ‘Yes, I really am a generalist.’

Charlotte Poot

Charlotte vividly remembers attending a trial lecture on DNA repair at an open day for the biomedical sciences programme in 2010. She decided to pursue this programme, and she found learning about the human body, disease and health to be ‘super fascinating’. The solid research skills she acquired have been of great benefit during her studies and later career.

Several research internships were part of her programme. ‘You don’t have to choose a specialisation right away. This helped me figure out what really suits me.’ The internships involved adolescent obesity prevention, colon cancer and patients with congenital brain abnormalities.

Contact with people

Charlotte soon discovered that she would rather treat people than do laboratory research. ‘I was less interested in being in the lab day in and day out. I’d rather be in contact with the people we are ultimately doing research for.’

She also enjoys making research results more understandable to the general public. That is why she chose the science communication specialisation and also took courses in neurology, a research field that had always fascinated her.

Sex education

As a student, Charlotte was a member of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations. In addition to the fun and get-togethers, it also gave her the opportunity to contribute something to society. For instance, she taught sex education classes in secondary schools. ‘That was way out of my comfort zone and good for my teaching skills.’

Between her bachelor’s and master’s programmes, she worked as a research assistant at the Centre for Human Drug Research in Leiden. ‘For a while, I didn’t know which direction I wanted to go in.’ A year later, she worked on a large European study on chronic respiratory diseases in low-income countries. She seized the opportunity to help train local teams in Kyrgyzstan, Vietnam and Greece on how best to do qualitative research.

On 1 February, she defended her dissertation at the LUMC. That research focused on the development, evaluation and implementation of eHealth, the challenges we face as a society and the challenges researchers face in this field.

Unnecessary fear and anxiety

Now she works as chair of Hospital Hero, an LUMC spin-off that has developed an app for children who have to go to hospital. ‘This gives them an idea of what to expect before their visit’, she explains, ‘so they can avoid some of their unnecessary fear and anxiety.’
Charlotte helped with the pilot study. Now, the app is being used not only at the LUMC’s Willem-Alexander Children’s Hospital but at three other hospitals too. ‘We want to help as many children as possible with their hospital visit.’ She appreciated the supervision the project received from experienced entrepreneurs and mentors during the Unlock_ programme for start-ups at Leiden Bio Science Park. The app, she proudly tells us, was recently nominated for the Klokhuis Science Award (voting opens on 26 February).

‘The knowledge I gain in one project I can put to good use in another.’

A broad perspective

For a long time, she insisted: ‘I will never go further in science’. But now, in addition to her job at Hospital Hero, Charlotte works two days a week as a postdoctoral researcher at the LUMC. ‘I really enjoy that combination.’ She uses her knowledge and experience to support various research projects, especially the knowledge she gained about deploying digital technologies in nursing homes. ‘The knowledge I gain in one project I can put to good use in another.’

She sometimes finds it challenging that researchers are isolated on their ‘own research island’, but that is a problem she does not seem to face herself. ‘No, I’m not someone who has to get to the bottom of something.  I prefer to view things from different angles and like to keep a broad perspective.’

When asked if she has any particular future plans or dreams, she replies: ‘I’m not really a long-term thinker. I’ll see what comes my way.’ And no doubt those will be more rewarding and interesting things.

Text: Thessa Lageman
Main photo: Unsplash.com / CDC 

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