Award-winning Professor Bas Bloom ‘Has a Reputation for Parkinson’s Patients’

Bas Bloom (1967) Professor of Neurological Movement Disorders at Radboudumc.Linelle Deunk Statue

Neurologist Ank Sniders remembers very well how in 2009 a patient with Parkinson’s disease came to the office of Professor Bas Blume, her research supervisor at Radboudumc at the time. The patient can no longer walk. But cycling is fine, he said. “I want to photograph that,” Bloom immediately said. “Anki, are you going to take your bike?” The video The ensuing, in which the patient walks around without problems, is an icon among neurologists around the world and resulted in a publication in a major American medical journal.

Bloom, says Professor Rob DB (Amsterdam UMC), has an excellent eye for these amazing aspects of Parkinson’s disease. “With his enthusiasm and sense of media, he knows better than anyone how to draw the disease’s attention to society.” Bloom (Vorburg, 1967) is charismatic, verbally gifted, exuding boundless energy and optimism. Sometimes he’s on the Humberto Tan talk show as singer Rob de Nijs’s therapist, and sometimes in the paper he references a possible link between pesticides and Parkinson’s disease. It’s one of the reasons the Nijmegen neurologist was awarded this year’s Stephen Prize from the NWO, the Dutch organization for scientific research. October 5 is the presentation of the highest Dutch scientific award (2.5 million euros) to leading scientists who have made a significant social impact.

“He has a very high profile with patients,” says Nikki van der Welp, president of the Parkinson’s Patients Association. Bloem gives them control over the disease by emphasizing what they can do on their own, such as exercising more often. You also have neurologists saying: You’re done with treatment.

National Network

Colleague and friend Martin Monnecke says improving care for Parkinson’s patients is Bloom’s main motivation. In 2004, he and Bloem created ParkinsonNet, a national network of caregivers with Parkinson’s expertise — from physical therapists to neurologists. Patients can approach them on their own via the Care Finder. Munneke: “This way they can maintain control of themselves and receive customized treatments, such as fall prevention.

Traditionally, most physical therapists know little about Parkinson’s disease, and rarely see it in their practice. The ‘pioneering model of care’ (dixit the NWO lury), which also saves on healthcare costs, was also the reason for receiving the Bloems Stevin Award. Parkinson’s disease itself cannot be cured—in this brain disease, dopamine cells die slowly but irreversibly, leading to problems with movement and cognition—a person-directed treatment can significantly improve a person’s quality of life, says the professor.

The Bloem Engine has been a part of it since childhood. When his mother develops multiple sclerosis at a young age, he decides to become a doctor. “Otherwise he might now be an archaeologist, but he also finds history fascinating,” says his partner, Inge Bowers. “He dives into everything with equal fanaticism.” Boyer believes that Bloom, the eldest son of two sons, gets this competitive position from his father. “He was a sports teacher and did all kinds of competitions for his kids while on vacation.”

Very good thinking outside the box

Sports and competition remain important topics in Bloom’s life. He made it to the Juniors as a volleyball player, but then chose medicine. He sees several of his former teammates, including Ron Zwerver, winning the Olympic gold medal a few years later in Atlanta (1996). “At the time, he was really good at thinking outside the box,” Zwerfer says now. “After training sessions with coach Jupp Albeda, he will then come up with all kinds of settings that you can confuse the opponent with.”

And soon his drive and creativity led Bloem to the top in medicine as well. While studying in Leiden, where he also later obtained his Ph.D. and continued his training in neurology, he left for the United States at the age of 21 to conduct research with the famous Parkinson’s Professor Bill Langston. “This is Bas Bloom, he’s a former semi-professional volleyball player,” said my supervisor in Nijmegen. “I’ll appoint him,” said Langston. In 2002, Bloom became president of the Parkinson’s Center Nijmegen in Radbodomke, and since 2008 he has been a professor. He has more than 750 scientific publications to his name and is considered the worldwide reference for Parkinson’s disease.

He may be a workaholic and need little sleep, but Bloem regularly builds consciously in moments of rest, his partner Boers knows. We regularly go for a walk together, for example. He does not take his phone with him on vacation. Recently, he also began to take up a new hobby: modeling railways.

As a supervisor, Bloem is primarily focused on the big picture, former doctoral students say. “He usually leaves detailed analyzes to other team members,” says Snijders. And you have to learn to clearly indicate what you are doing or don’t have time for. If you give him a finger, he will want his whole hand to come out of the enthusiasm.

Bloem’s vision also has negative sides. For example, patients from all over the world would like to be referred to him, notes Prof. DB in Amsterdam. But if you live in Alkmaar, you will come across several hospitals on your way to Nijmegen. The diagnoses and treatments there are certainly no less.

Vanity is no stranger to the tall flower. “Bass absolutely loves all that attention,” says fellow neurologist Bart Post (Radbodomk), but mainly sees himself as the team’s striker. When he was with Humberto for the Stevin Prize, he took the entire research team with him. He is really helpful.

Sometimes, according to some, he is far ahead of the troops. For example, when he announced the approach of the real “Parkinson’s pandemic”, and about the relationship between pesticides and disease. From a scientific point of view, this is far from certain, says DB, for example. Post: “That’s why I prefer to say: there are more and more patients.”

But make no mistake about it, as everyone around him says, you couldn’t have a better ambassador for Parkinson’s disease than Bloom. DB: He put the disease on the map. Van der Wulp: “Bloem gives patients a platform.”

3 times Parkinson’s disease

Parkinson’s disease has a range of symptoms. Its most characteristic is trembling limbs and slow movement. More than 60,000 people in the Netherlands suffer from Parkinson’s disease.

The disease that later bore his name was first described by the London physician James Parkinson in 1817. He believed – wrongly – that the cause lay in the spinal cord.

Parkinson’s disease cannot be cured. However, the symptoms can be treated, as can medications such as levodopa. At a later stage in the disease, an electrode implanted in the brain can sometimes provide relief.

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