Influencer dr. Desiree Hooi

Interview May 2020

Dr. Desi Hooi, would you share with us some information of your family life?
I was born on Curaçao, I am in a relationship but not married yet, I have no children, I have no brothers and sisters, my parents are alive and they are very supportive in whom I am now. I grew up in a loving, warm and music oriented family from both my father and mother’s side of the family.

In your biography, I have read that on October 25th, 2018, you obtained from the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU), your PhD in Medical Sciences. In your dissertation entitled: “HPV and cervical cancer on Curaçao, towards implementation of an integrated prevention program”. Could you share with us some of your educational background and past professional experiences?
I have a nursing, medical and scientific background. Transplantology  and immunology were my driving spirit to become a doctor since I was very young. I was driven later on in my career to do researches on a possible cure for diabetes mellitus. But life has taken me on a different path, where I have found a new passion in Public Health Ethnography, Medical Anthropology and Health Governance. During my PhD career, I have gained knowledge about the psychological, social and anthropological role in a population’s health and in the healthcare sector. I also gained knowledge on Global Health, Global Health Governance and Human Rights. The important line connecting health and behavioral sciences motivated me to assist the UN regional meeting in Geneva since 2017. There I presented my views on the topic at discussion, namely on more inclusion of the Afro-descendant population in health programs striving for proper healthcare, and these were considered as valuable input for the Outcome Document in that year.

You advocate for good registration of medical epidemiological data, making medical decisions based on the needs of all specific groups, and equal medical care for everyone. Why is that so important, and why did you specifically mention inclusion of the Afro-descendant population?
There are not enough evidence based data in the Afro-descendent population. If one really wants to implement evidence-based practices and make evidence-based decisions, resources must also be made available to collect this data. In the Caribbean, where most of the population are Afro-descendants, an epidemiological database is under construction. But even more input and commitment is needed. Good health is an essential people’s right. And as a black female doctor from the Caribbean, I feel it is my duty to advocate for that.

As a researcher, what kind of research are you involved in? Are you still involved with research that might have relevance for Curaçao and for the whole Caribbean area?
I spent six years researching the implementation of cervical cancer screening in Curaçao. The last two years I have been busy implementing care programs in the Dutch Caribbean. In the near future, I am preparing to do more research in the field of Public Health Ethnography. Now I am more interested in the behavioral aspects of health, as I am understanding better how big a role emotions play in the behavior of people, in fact they drive mostly people’s behaviors.

What is your opinion on the Convid-19 pandemic and how will this affect the world where we live in right now, especially with regards with the role researchers as you will play? How will people live together in the new era where the coronavirus will be endemic?
Many researches are ongoing and much remains to be done. The COVID pandemic is simply a great transition moment. Now and then a mutated virus comes up and affects our normal way of life. Nature will always find mechanisms to compensate for this, and sometimes it can cause lots of damage. Perhaps this virus was a mechanism to compensate. I sincerely believe that we as humans should treat mother Earth with more respect and care. And as Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent; it is the one most adaptable to change.”

You seem to be very passionate about what you are doing now where does your drive come from?
The Universe.

Could you be more specific?
First of all, I think that we are so insignificantly small compared to the vastness of the whole Universe, as we are in separately part of a much bigger whole. It feels like everything is connected, and that fascinates me and t makes me very curious. As part of the whole, there is this Yin and Yang and there is always a mechanism striving to reach an equilibrium when it is out of balance. We should always try to strive for balance and use all available powers to show the best of us.

What is your BIG WHY or driving motivation to be whom you are right now?
It’s just who I am.

Where do you want to be let us say 10 years from now in your profession and on the personal level?
Wherever I can continue to progress by making a positive contribution to making people happy, promoting health and preventing disease.

What are the challenges that you are dealing with? And how are you dealing with these different challenges you confront?
Every day is a challenge, I just take it day by day and keep on walking. I don’t know of any other options.

Do you use your inner voice to evaluate when dilemma’s show up? How does that work for you?
Of course, I can always use some expert advises.

How are you trying also to keep up with your personal knowledge and skills levels?
I have several ways: Internet, education, my personal network, conferences, etc.

What are your strengths?
I have a lot, but the most important ones, I am a dreamer with a great perseverance.

Do you have hobbies or interests that you are also passionate about?
Music-, poetries-, and play production.

If you as Desi would meet a stranger in the bus (let say in Germany or the US) and they would ask you to introduce yourself, what would you answer?
Hi, I am Desi.

How would you describe Desi in one word or one sentence?
Critical, honest and enthusiastic.

Whom are the persons that have inspired you the most in your career?
Family and friends.

What is a trait that is still a work in progress?
I don’t have a specific trait that is “work in progress”. It is situational, as every day I wake up, to find the best version of me that fits well in that day and in my environment.

What was a defining moment in your life?
Every single second.

What would you want your Loved Ones, family, friends and others to say about you let’s say 20 years from now?
“You inspired us to be who we are today”.

We were shot down and just opening up because of the presence of the Corona virus in Curaçao. What makes you stay optimistic about the future of Curaçao and humanity in general?
Beyond every dead end lies an infinite of prospects –D.J.Hooi 2019.
I believe that we will find a way to focus, collaborate and communicate properly with each other even though it is a great challenge. Hopefully we will overcome this COVID-19 crisis soon.

Contact info:
Linkedin: Desiree J. Hooi

One of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao
Desiree Hooi, is one of the bright young researchers who is trying to make an impact in her field of expertise in the world as she works and live in Holland. At a young age, she was already interested in health care and became a nurse. After graduating as a physician, she earned her PhD in medical science and of late has changed her focus to the behavioral side of health care. She firmly believes that social-anthropological aspects have an enormous impact on human beings in their health. The understanding of cultural aspects can influence the way how best to communicate with patients. This important line, connecting health and behavioral sciences, motivated her to become a member of the African European Medical and Research Network, which is an active NGO affiliated to the UN and branch partners such as WHO, UNESCO, etc. Here she presents her views on the topic at discussion, namely on more inclusion of the Afro-descendant population in health programs striving for proper healthcare, and these were considered as valuable input for the UNPAD Outcome Document. She is now preparing to do more research in the field of Public Health Ethnography and thus actively deepening the research related to this connection. We deeply love and respect Desi and consider her one of the 250 Influencers of Curaçao, representing the Health sector.

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