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Coffee with Constance Schultsz

Constance Schultsz is a medical microbiologist and professor of Global Health. She has represented Amsterdam UMC on the NCOH Executive Board since 2021. In this interview she tells us about what motivates her, and gives us a glimpse into her life outside the hospital. “I sing and like to go to concerts. Bruce Springsteen’s concert at the Malieveld was a highlight for me.”

What kind of research do you do?

“My research consists of two main topics: antibiotic resistance and Streptococcus suis. So it really fits with One Health. I worked in Vietnam for five years, and that laid the foundation for my research. Streptococcus suis is a major problem in Asia. The bacterium causes disease in pigs, but can also spread to humans and cause meningitis. Nobody was researching that yet, so I started doing it. One of the ways in which it’s transmitted from pigs to humans is through the consumption of raw pork, which is common in Asian countries. In Europe, Streptococcus suis infections are rare, but certainly not negligible.”

What motivates you?

“I’m interested in international challenges: the Netherlands is too small for me. I don’t mean that in a condescending way, it’s just that I’m curious about other cultures and regions and I’m interested in examining problems from a global perspective. In Vietnam and Thailand, for example, people eat congealed pig’s blood. They have it in a bowl, with coriander and nuts on top. Most Europeans shudder at the idea. But over here we also eat raw foods that can make us sick, such as beef tartare and unpasteurised cheeses. We think that’s normal. Everyone’s conception of what is normal and acceptable is culturally determined.”

What do you enjoy most about your work?

“I love doing research. I like asking critical questions and having a clear objective. I also enjoy working with PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers.”

What are the benefits of NCOH?

“The most important benefits are the network and the connections. You do of course have to put the effort in yourself, by organising events for example, because networks don’t just come out of nowhere. When you manage to secure funding together, that’s also valuable.”

The next Annual Scientific Meeting will be in Amsterdam. The theme is microbiology, food and climate change. What can we expect?

“It’s going to be very topical. We’ll be looking at new approaches to problems we’ve created, such as climate change and problems in food production. There’s going to be a speaker from Australia who will tell a fantastic story about how we can combat the rise in viral infections caused by climate change, for example by infecting mosquitoes so that they can no longer carry viruses. So we won’t just be talking about problems – we’ll be presenting new solutions too! We’ll be covering viruses, bacteria and vectors. It should be of interest to everyone at NCOH.”

What do you like to do in your free time?

“I sing and go to concerts. Classical music is my favourite, but I actually like all kinds of music. I’m also a Stromae fan, for example. Music is really a priority in my free time. I also like using our sailing boat. I mainly use it as a beach house, because I can’t sail and I get seasick when I’m out on the water. The boat is moored at a perfect spot on the beach in IJmuiden harbour. When my husband goes sailing with friends or family, I just lie on the beach.”

What’s the best concert you’ve been to?

“I go to a lot of classical music concerts. I’ve also been to Bruce Springsteen several times. My favourite concert was at the Malieveld in 2016. Along with about a thousand other devoted fans, we checked in every day in The Hague for several days before the concert so that we would be allowed to stand right at the front. That daily check-in was totally worth it. Springsteen performed his album The River and a bunch of other hit songs. It was fantastic.”

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