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Palliative Care Doctor is Expert in Compassion

13 December 2018

Ronald van Nordennen, M.D., (UWC Atlantic College 1995-1997) is an Elderly Care Physician, specialising in palliative end-of-life care. He works in the Netherlands in the field of geriatrics, practising primarily in a large hospice in the south of the country.

From the age of 13 when he was admitted to hospital after a bike accident, Ronald wanted to become a doctor. During his time at UWC Atlantic College, he became interested in elderly care through social service activities he performed through the College. He saw that much work was needed in this field, including better treatment of symptoms at the end of life. Ronald attended Maastricht University for medical school, and specialised as an Elderly Care Physician, a unique track in the field of medicine. 

In geriatrics and hospice care, says Ronald, “curing patients is not the goal anymore... The main goal is to treat symptoms and to ensure that patients are able to die in a good and peaceful manner.” The Netherlands is among the countries of the world who allow regulated euthanasia, and Ronald is a member of the committee which oversees all cases of euthanasia to ensure doctors comply with the law. 

While practising medicine, Ronald also teaches classes for nurses and doctors who work with patients in palliative care. He is simultaneously completing his PhD about ‘Medication Use for Comorbid Disease in Patients at the End of Life.’ “The combination of medical work, teaching and research makes my work very interesting,” he says. “In teaching, I have the opportunity to learn a lot and to get inspired by young professionals in the field.” 

Ronald reflects on his time at UWC, with its unique combination of academics, internationalism and community service, as a “life-changing” experience. “The world has become smaller because of UWC,” he says, noting his ability to find and make friends across the world while, for example, travelling abroad for medical conferences. His UWC experience also shaped his career, enabling him to follow his passion for medicine with a cooperative and compassionate spirit: “UWC made me realise that working with and for others is something I enjoy a lot.”