20 of 2020: Nicolaas sought and found the feeling of being useful again

Nicolaas Lumen
16 December 2020 |

We are nearing the end of this strange and special year, 2020. Time to reflect on the status quo. 20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.

Nicolaas Lumen is a ‘product of Ghent University’ in every way. In 2002, he graduated in medicine, and these days he is a professor in urology. Nicolaas hopes to quickly return to a normal life, so that we can come and go as we please once more.

How was 2020 for you?

“Honestly? It was a terrible year, in all sorts of ways. For example, I’m just back from teaching urology, to an empty auditorium. It’s all rather surreal, both for me and for my students. It’s like giving fake lessons, knowing they usually give me so much satisfaction. Once I was given an applause at the end of a lesson. (laughs) It’s not that I expect an applause after every lesson, but the interaction with students gives me real energy.”

What are the good things you will remember from 2020?

“During the second wave of the corona crisis I made myself useful by teaming up with the Belgian army as a reservist. Being a doctor, I was able to help in the burns unit at Neder-over-Heembeek, where all patients with severe burns were centralised. This allowed the hospitals to release more beds for corona patients. I felt really useful and learned a lot about how things are done in the defence department. That felt good and was a good experience in the past year. I needed it, because I felt so useless during the first wave. Regular care was postponed and, as a doctor, I was stuck on the sidelines watching while the whole care sector was in turmoil. Really frustrating.”

Highlight your best wishes on the Book Tower

Last year was like no other, but it was also filled with warmth. We supported each other and shared in each other’s ups and downs. Now this is your chance to thank everyone who was there for you. Not in the usual way, but with a virtual projection of your best wishes onto the Book Tower.

Of which accomplishment are you most proud in 2020?

“The fact that I was pretty much unemployed during the first wave meant I was able to devote more time to science and research. I turned my attention to a number of projects that had been ticking over for a long time. This meant I finally had time to write guidelines for the European Urology Association, of which I am chairman. This had been on my ‘to do’ list for a while, but I never got round to it.”

What have you learned from the past year?

“I have learned to appreciate the people who really matter, and to distinguish friends better from acquaintances. That was no easy matter, as you only really get to know your friends in times of crisis. The corona crisis has revealed a few issues in my relationships. I have therefore learned who I can really depend on.”

Who do you most admire at Ghent University?

“I would choose Erik Van Laecke, who is head of Ghent University Hospital and also someone from Ghent University. He really deserves a medal for how he transformed the operating theatres to allow essential surgery to continue as much as possible. Thanks to his tremendous efforts and good decisions we were able to prevent ‘collateral damage’. However, another amazing person from Ghent University who deserves a mention is infectiologist, Steven Callens. He was particularly good, objective and accurate in his communication about the corona virus and, for that, I would like to thank him.”

What do you hope for in 2021?

“I hope that we’ll soon be able to resume normal life, and return to a society without all the restrictions. That we’ll soon be able to come and go as we please. It makes you think twice. Our freedom is being restricted for obvious reasons, but in some countries the same is done for political reasons. Our freedom should not be taken for granted, we should cherish it in 2021.”

What do you wish other people at Ghent University in 2021?

“That they can once again enjoy human contact inside and outside the university. For example, for students, this period should be one of the best times in their lives. Now they are only seeing a small part of university life, the knowledge side. Human contact should not be underestimated and so that is exactly what I wish for everyone.”

Nicolaas Lumen
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20 of 2020: read the other interviews

20 people with links to Ghent University were selected at random. They tell us what 2020 meant to them, what they will carry over to next year and above all: what they hope for in 2021.

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