From 1st of January 2017 Lies covers the role of Executive Director of the VPH Institute. Lies has taken over as Director after Adriano Henney's appointment as Secretary General of the newly established Avicenna Alliance. In this introduction message Lies tells how she firstly got involved with the Institute, and how she is planning to contribute to the future of the VPHi now that she is covering this new important role.
"It is a great honor and privilege to follow in the footsteps of Marco and Adriano as the next executive director the VPH institute. I would first and foremost like to thank them for the amazing job they have done over the last decade and their continued investment in the institute. And I would like to thank them and the board of the VPHi for the confidence they have placed in me.
After my MSc degree in mechanical engineering and a PhD in biomechanics (from the KU Leuven, Belgium), I got to know the VPH institute through its conference series. The mixture of engineering and biomedical sciences along with the attention to the practical aspects related to the implementation of in silico medicine within the medical community appealed to me strongly and I wanted to get more closely involved with the VPH community. Knowing Marco from the biomechanics field, I got in touch with him and asked him how I could contribute to the goals of the VPHi. He mentioned that the newly established Policy Affairs Working group (PAWG) could always use additional people and that lobbying expertise was definitely not a requirement. One thing led quickly to another and suddenly I found myself chairing the PAWG and learning an awful lot about lobbying and the efforts it takes to get all the stakeholders (scientific community, medical community, commission, policy makers and regulators) aligned. As a chair of the PAWG, I attended the VPHi board meetings and got introduced to all the facets of the institute and its management.
With the creation of the Avicenna Alliance and Adriano taking the role as its secretary-general, the VPHi needed a new executive director. When Marco approached me about this role, I squelched my immediate positive reply because I wanted to make sure I could give the institute what it really needs and deserves. Other than not speaking Italian, there are a few differences between myself and my predecessors: my network is not as vast as theirs and I am still on the other side of 40. However, my network is increasing rapidly thanks to the support of Marco, Adriano and the entire VPHi board – all still doing their utmost to make sure the interests of the institute are well served. Invaluable is also the expertise and skills of our manager, Martina Contin, who is really the silent driver behind many of the institute’s actions. As for the age (something that is also increasing rapidly J), what I lack in experience I intend to make up for in gusto and hard work. Therefore, I decided to accept Marco’s invitation and am very happy with the board’s unanimous acceptance.
So what is it we will be focusing on the coming year? As you can read in Marco’s message a bit further in this newsletter, with the establishment of the Avicenna Alliance we will engage in a thorough discussion on the role and organizational character of our institute. Together with the Avicenna Alliance, we will resume the activities of the former PAWG spread over three working groups: research, policy and EU/US/Asia-Pacific. Proposing VPH-related calls for the new H2020 working program, interacting with the Commission and the regulators, and reaching out to other continents are but a few of the activities that will be taken in hand by these working groups. You have recently received a call for participation in these working groups and I encourage you strongly to get involved. In addition to the working groups, the institute will continue its efforts to increase visibility within and beyond the European scientific community by continuing to invest in the conference series, to connect to sister societies and to expand our membership. We will increase the activities geared towards the younger members of our community, PhD students and postdocs, with summer schools, webinars and mentoring programs. Finally, we will also reach out to the end users of the VPH technology: the medical community and patients because we cannot successfully translate our work to the clinics without their support and enthusiasm.
The footsteps to fill as executive director are very big - yet so is my motivation to write another successful chapter in the book of the VPH institute. I welcome each and every one of you to get in touch with me with your ideas and suggestions on how we can build our community and, together, realize the promise of in silico medicine."
Prof Lies Geris