On the day of her appointment as Full Professor of Clinical Neurophysiology, December 1, 2022, Nens van Alfen has been working at the Radboudumc for for exactly 25 years. “I studied in Nijmegen, trained as a neurologist here, and have been affiliated with the Department of Neurology as a staff member of Clinical Neurophysiology since 2004”, she says. During this time she has formed collaborations and works together with colleagues from many departments. The Clinical Neurophysiology laboratoy performs investigations for neurologists, and also for other departments within the hospital and in our regional network as a center of reference. We work closely with the departments of Rehabilitation, Plastic Surgery, Neurosurgery and Orthopedics. For her “cooperation across the boundaries of disciplines is, as far as I am concerned, indispensable to have a significant impact on health and healthcare”.
Van Alfen has been the medical director of the Clinical Neurophysiology laboratory since 2013. She finds it very satisfying to be able to combine all three core academic tasks: patient care, research, and teaching. “If we listen to what patients tell us, there are still often gaps in our knowledge and skills. We try to fill those gaps with research. Then we share our knowledge in training. We share it with the new generation of doctors, but also with international colleagues, many of whom visit our lab for training. And in return we learn a lot from those we teach to. So for me it is "Everytime I teach, I learn". We then try to bring what we have learned and developed right back to the patient. And then the circle starts all over again.”
Advancing ultrasound of muscles and nerves
In her research, Van Alfen focuses on the further development and implementation of ultrasound of muscles and nerves, in which she and her Clinical Neuromuscular Imaging Group are world leaders. Her work is supported in part by a grant from the Dutch foundation for children with neuromuscular diseases, Spieren voor Spieren: “Together with UMC Utrecht and LUMC, I will implement muscle imaging using ultrasound and MRI. That way it won't matter to patients which hospital they visit for their care: in Leiden and Utrecht they can get the same high-quality imaging diagnostics as they can here, with us.” Her next goal is to embed ultrasound imaging of nerves and muscles in the training programs for neurologists and clinical neurophysiology technicians.
The main goal is always to improve patients care. “When people come to us for their diagnosis or follow up, I want to make sure we have enough time to answer their question. It's important to get their story straight, in the most efficient and friendly way. We have a whole array of medical equipment here with which we can examine a patient's symptoms. But obviously we don't want to do just anything. That's why hearing their story and aligning with their questions is so important.”
Nens van Alfen (1972, Eindhoven) studied Medicine at the Radboud University, specialized as a neurologist and has been a staff member at Radboud university medical center since 2004. In 2006 she received her doctorate with honors for her dissertation entitled "Neuralgic amyotrophy". She is the vice chair of the Core Consilium of the Neurology residency program, chair of the Council for the Professional Training of Clinical Neurophysiologists, and an associate editor for Muscle & Nerve. Her appointment for five years as professor of Clinical Neurophysiology with a focus on neuromuscular ultrasound, has become effective from December 1, 2022.