Ask the Alumna: Lien Van den Hoven on Immunology, Oxford and Studying Medicine

By Thea Bladt Hansen

Collage by Thea Bladt Hansen

— “What I really appreciate about AUC is that I still have friends from all sorts of academic disciplines. With my university friends from after AUC, the conversations always end up being about patients and hospitals. With the people from AUC there’s just so much else that you share,” AUC graduate of 2016 Lien van den Hoven explains during The Herring’s fourth live Ask the Alumni event which took place on Wednesday, 18 May, in the academic building.

Why the seeming detour of doing a Liberal Arts and Sciences degree before pursuing a career in medicine? Van den Hoven says that she chose AUC because she wanted to explore other fields before settling on medicine. She adds that “I felt like I had been blindly going in the direction of medicine, but here I got a chance to try things out.” 

Photo by Levin Stamm

After AUC, Van den Hoven went on to do a one-year master’s degree in immunology at Oxford University before doing a graduate degree in medicine at the Vrije Universiteit. She has now been an assistant doctor for six months and wants to specialise in internal medicine.

Although Van den Hoven realised during her master’s at Oxford that she had missed the feeling of focussing on just one discipline without having to do mandatory academic core courses next to it, it has not been a disadvantage for her to study pre-Med at AUC instead of a regular Dutch university: “If I compare the pre-Med track at AUC to the Dutch bachelor of medicine, the intensity of the courses at AUC, the small groups and the way you are very much stimulated to explore and deepen your understanding is really quite unique.” 

Photo by Levin Stamm

Van den Hoven especially recalls how big an impact AUC’s immunology course had on her: “It was quite fundamental to  what I have been doing ever since. I’ve always been very interested in the human body, but that course gave it a little more direction. Medicine is very broad, and this course helped me figure out what direction I wanted to go in.”

Although AUC presented Van den Hoven with the field of immunology, her master’s degree at Oxford University cemented her understanding of the complexity of the human body: “The immunology course at AUC uses Janeways’ Immunobiology book, which to me is like the bible of immunology. At the beginning of my master’s at Oxford they basically said that everything I had learned in this book was bullshit because it tries to put everything in boxes, but that’s not at all how it works. Everything interacts. So Oxford gave me a lot of new and different perspectives on my field.” 

Photo by Levin Stamm

Van den Hoven smiles at the many audience questions about Oxford University and admits that her interest in the university was also initially mainly due to its prestigious name. But her academic experiences at Oxford were very valuable to her and she adds that she “can really recommend that you apply to a university like Oxford. In the UK, it is not as common to do a master’s degree, so the competition for post-graduate programmes is much less than for undergraduate programmes.”

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