‘Why do doctors never ask what you ate last week?’

Brilliant minds, great ideas

Medicine student Wilma Oosthoek (23) is the founder of the Society for Students & Nutrition, and one of the forces to be reckoned with behind the Challenge Accepted campaign. Her goal is to spread information about nutrition and lifestyle among as many future doctors as possible.


Ideally, Wilma Oosthoek would like to see research of nutrition and lifestyle implemented as part of the medicine curriculum. ‘Why is it expected for a doctor to ask whether you smoke or do drugs, but not what you’ve been eating over the last week? Everybody eats, including sick people. Perhaps proper nutrition can’t cure what ails them, but it might ease the pain?’

Not afraid to step in
‘Only now that I’m a medical intern at the hospital, I notice how much ignorance we’re dealing with,’ says Jochem Bosch (24), fifth-year medicine student and the society’s secretary. ‘Patients tend to know very little about nutrition, and doctors won’t broach the subject.’ Other students often see things go wrong, without anyone in the hospital ready to intervene. He admits it can be a complicated subject. ‘On social media, people write all kinds of things about nutrition; as a doctor you need to be ready to deal with that. But by and large, adequate research is available.’

Karel Sleurink (22) studies Medicine in Leiden and is the treasurer: ‘Lifestyle-related diseases are a heavy burden on society.’ Fellow students are mostly stoked and interested, he finds. Every faculty in the Netherlands now has a committee that plans to make nutrition part of the curriculum. Sleurink: ‘It’s cool and motivating to see these changes happening.’

Sensitive subjects
Vice-president Sophie Wooldrik (23): ‘I used to play top-level sports, spent much of my student days rowing competitively. Because of that, I was always aware of the importance of nutrition and sleep, and I knew how much they mattered performance-wise.’ Jochem Bosch adds: ‘It’s one thing to possess knowledge, it’s another to share it with patients. But you can’t afford to be nervous. Sometimes it’s a sensitive thing, when you have to tell someone they need to lose weight.’ Wilma Oosthoek: ‘Our mission is ‘handing patients their health back’. Time will tell if we can disband our society at some point, because we succeeded. As far as I’m concerned, the sooner, the better.’

More info: www.studentenvoeding.nl and challengeaccepted.eur.nl

TEXT: Pauline Bijster
PHOTO: Jennifer Remme

Wilma Oosthoek