Master Hans Philipsen and student Hannerieke van der Boom

Written by  Graziella Runchina Sunday, 03 October 2010 00:00

For four years on average, they share an intense relationship: the professor as ‘master’ and the PhD candidate as student. How does a relationship like this develop? Does the student come to surpass the master? Does the relationship carry on after the defence? And does the master learn from the student too? A double portrait of the ‘master’, Professor Hans Philipsen, and his former PhD candidate, Hannerieke van der Boom.

What characterises a good master–student relationship?

Hans: “Finding the right balance in a relationship like this isn’t easy. Because the PhD candidate, besides being your ‘student’, is also just another colleague at an organisation; an employee who’s also involved in his or her own subject group. As a PhD supervisor, I also tried to see Hannerieke this way and accept her just the way she is.”

Hannerieke: “For me, the main thing is that the supervisor gives you enough freedom to do your own research, but at the same time also the guidance that you're looking for as a PhD candidate. In my case, this balance was perfect. Within the research project, Hans gave me a lot of freedom to search for my own direction. The only conditions were that it had to be an international study and it had to involve professionalisation in healthcare, particularly in the non-medical occupations. Other than that, I had every freedom to make my own choices.”

What did you learn from each other?

Hannerieke: “Hans especially taught me to continually reflect on a subject rather than just making do. In my case, I kept looking for the underlying notions about why home care in the Netherlands looks the way it does, and why it’s different in other countries. And I learned from Hans not just in terms of the subject matter; he also taught me a lot in human terms. The importance of good dialogue, for example. I used to be quite impatient and always jumping to conclusions, but now I try not to form a judgement until I’ve really listened to the other’s point of view.”

Hans: “Hannerieke was my 59th PhD candidate. And she was one of the last who wanted to write a proper book rather than just a related collection of articles. I learned from her to keep trusting in the fact that things will turn out all right. I also saw in her that she never gives up in the face of setbacks. To be honest, that surprised me on occasion. But it also taught me that you should always be careful when it comes to your expectations of others.”

How would you characterise each other?

Hannerieke: “Hans is very patient, supportive, inspiring and motivating. Even when times were tough for me, he always understood my situation. That gave me the composure I needed to keep on following the path I’d chosen.”

Hans: “Reliable and thorough. I knew Hannerieke’s work from her thesis on the history of hospitals, so I knew what sort of cloth she was cut from. What I like about her is that she’s very precise in her communication with people and she goes about her work very energetically. And she’s usually very quick when it comes to answering emails and questions. That’s good to see.”

What still sticks in your mind from the PhD period?

Hannerieke: “In the first place, the inspired discussions about healthcare in various European countries with Fred Stevens, my co-supervisor, and Hans. I really got a lot out of that. I also recall that it was tough to find a balance between work and family life. I had my children during that period, which meant a constant struggle with my available time. On the other hand I saw it as a big advantage that I already had some life experience; I wasn’t still a ‘spring chicken’ when I got my PhD.”

Hans: “That she always stood behind what she said – that still sticks with me. Fred and I got a lot out of Hannerieke’s whole PhD process. Many of our hypotheses appeared to correspond with one another, and that reinforced our understanding of the professions and culture in healthcare in the different countries.”

What surprised you the most?

Hans: “That Hannerieke was able to explain things without any measure of insecurity; honestly, that did surprise me a bit. She’s certainly proven that she’s good at getting her opinion across in a short and sweet way, and also standing by it. But at first that’s not something I’d suspected about her.”

Hannerieke: “What most surprised me after the publication of my book was all the media attention that came with it. From both the radio and the print media. The book evidently demonstrated that the Netherlands cuts a poor figure when it comes to bureaucratisation in healthcare. That wasn’t an eye-opener for me personally, but it’s good to see that other parties are now also considering this in real depth.”

So has the student surpassed the master?

Hannerieke: “Certainly not. Hans has already had so many roles within UM, I’d never be in the same league.”

Do you still follow each other’s progress?

Hans: “I hope that Hannerieke can maintain the attention that her research attracted. It might even influence policymakers. I’ll certainly be keeping close track of her and I assume that she’ll stay involved in scholarly pursuits.”

Hannerieke: “We do keep in touch, though not all that intensively. The interest in one another is certainly there. And I’m able to keep track of Hans thanks to his pieces in the Observant [Maastricht University’s independent weekly newspaper ― Ed.]. So I always know what he’s up to.”

The PhD research “Home nursing in Europe: Patterns of Professionalisation and Institutionalisation of Home Care and Family Care to Elderly People in Denmark, France, the Netherlands and Germany”: a macro-sociological, qualitative study into international differences in home care and informal care for elderly people in four European countries. The key theme is the different ways in which district nursing services and other forms of ambulatory care for elderly people are provided and embedded in the healthcare systems and the sociocultural and political contexts of each country.

Hans Philipsen (1935) is professor emeritus of Medical Sociology at Maastricht University. He studied sociology and anthropology at the University of Amsterdam, where he completed his doctoraal exams in 1959 and obtained his PhD nine years later. In 1968 he was appointed as professor at the State University (Rijksuniversiteit) of Leiden. In 1974 he relocated to the Maastricht medical faculty as professor of Medical Sociology. From 1976 to 1980, Philipsen was the first chair of the University Council and the first elected member of the Executive Board. He was the first dean at the former Faculty of Health Sciences. From 1993 to 1995, Philipsen was UM’s rector magnificus, and subsequently vice president of the Executive Board. He recently wound up his supervision of his 62nd and final PhD candidate.

After studying at the Conservatory of Music, Hannerieke van der Boom (1968) studied Arts and Sciences, specialising in Theory and History of People and Nature. Her doctoraal thesis was titled De geschiedenis van het ziekenhuiswezen in Nederland (1900-1940). Het ontstaan van het moderne ziekenhuis vanuit sociaal constructivistisch perspectief (‘The history of the hospital system in the Netherlands (1900–1940): The emergence of the modern hospital from a social-constructivist perspective’). Van der Boom obtained her PhD with her research into home care in Europe. She is currently the PhD coordinator at the School for Public Health and Primary Care (CAPHRI) of the Faculty of Health, Medicine and Life Sciences.

Rate this item
(0 votes)
Read 32796 times
You are here: Home People Professors Master Hans Philipsen and student Hannerieke van der Boom

Maastricht University Webmagazine

Marketing & Communications
Postbus 616, 6200 MD Maastricht
Minderbroedersberg 4-6, 6211 KL  Maastricht
Tel: +31 43 388 5222
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Download UM Magazine

Read a digital version of Maastricht University magazine,
or download the PDF.
UM Webmagazine June 2017

Connect with us