Fellow: Gabriela Rodrigo Stevens, Spain
Term of the Fellowship: 1.9. – 31.10.2019
Hosting department: Neuromuscular Reference Center, Neurology department, UZA, Edegem, Belgium
Supervisor: Prof. Dr Patrick Cras, Prof. Dr. Jonathan Baets, Prof. Dr. Alicia Alonso
I arrived in Antwerp just at the end of the summer, mentally prepared for the cold weather. To my surprise, it was still warm and the sun was shining almost every day. So luckily for me, I had a warm welcome, not only from my colleagues at UZA, but from the city of Antwerp too.
During the first days, I got to meet my professors and colleagues from the Neurology department. I was welcomed to the department by Prof. Dr. Patrick Cras and then introduced to Prof. Dr. Jonathan Baets who is the chief of the neuromuscular reference center of Antwerp University Hospital. I was lucky that I could share consultation and daily activities with Prf. Dr. Baets and all the other members of the neuromuscular department including Dr. Alicia Alonso, Prof. Dr. Peter De Jhonge and Prof. Dr. Mercellis.
During those two months, I attended the outpatient clinic, where there was neuromuscular consultation almost every day. They have a very broad spectrum of patients with diverse neuromuscular diseases, from myopathies and neuropathies to hereditary spastic paraplegias, ataxias, and motor neuron diseases. I learned how to do a neuromuscular oriented anamnesis and neurological examination, and also the main diagnostic and therapeutic approaches of a neuromuscular specialized unit.
I also had the opportunity to learn and practice by myself, basic notions of EMG. I learned how to do conduction velocities evaluation in the most frequent nerves, and also observe more complex needle EMG studies from hospitalized patients and out-patients. Special thanks to Dr. Alicia Alonso who was very kind to teach me and had the patience to let me practice and learn from her. This was very meaningful to me in terms of what I could learn during my rotation.
I also had the opportunity to watch the procedure of a muscle biopsy and also to learn and observe how they were treating patients with Nusinersen intrathecal injections, for spinal muscular atrophy.
When there weren’t neuromuscular patients, I also could join the movement disorders consultation, the botox infiltration out-patient consultation with Prof. Dr. Crossiers and the Myasthenia Gravis special consultation with Prof.Dr. Mercellis.
Twice a week there was also a staff reunion with members of the Radiology and Neurology departments, where we could learn and discuss the cases of recently hospitalized patients and discuss their MRI/CT images. On Fridays, there was “Journals Club”, where residents and staff members presented and discussed a topic each weak.
I want to make a special mention to my colleagues, the neurology residents in UZA. They were very kind to me from the beginning and I felt welcomed by them, during those two months they made me feel part of the neurology department, and I am very glad that I had the opportunity to meet them. Thanks to every one of them, but especially to Dr. Kamoen, Dr. Dijkstra, Dr. Vanderschueren, Dr. Blomme and Dr. De Winter with whom I shared almost every day. I was afraid of the “language barrier” because my dutch was basically cero, but they were always translating for me and trying to communicate with me in English so I could understand the anamnesis and also the daily activities.
In summary, it was a great and challenging experience for me. During those two months, I learned many new things, not only from Neuromuscular diseases but from Belgium and its culture too. I could also learn some basic dutch, which was a huge challenge for me, and I pretend to keep learning it for the future. My suggestion to the future clinical fellowship winners would be that if they have the opportunity to make it an 8 weeks rotation, try to do it because those 2 extra weeks make a big difference in terms of what you can learn during the rotation.
Finally, I would like to thanks the members of the EAN, for choosing me and giving me this huge opportunity for my career in the field of Neurology. I will encourage my future colleagues to apply.