Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

  • Career Feature
  • Published:


How a four-year-old boy connects healthcare, biomedical research and undergraduate education

Patients with unknown disease can serve as an educational catalyst in biomedical sciences to create strong synergy between healthcare, research and undergraduate education, with the goal of fostering translational medicine and helping patients.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution

Access options

Buy this article

Prices may be subject to local taxes which are calculated during checkout

Fig. 1: The patient with his father (right) and the medical doctors/(clinician-)scientists (left) sitting in the lecture hall together with 96 biomedical students.
Fig. 2


  1. Cohrs, R. J. et al. New Horiz. Transl. Med. 2, 86–88 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  2. Glasziou, P. & Chalmers, I. Br. Med. J. 363, k4645 (2018).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Alteri, E. & Guizzaro, L. Nature 563, 317–319 (2018).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  4. Binkley, M. et al. Defining twenty-first century skills. in Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills (Springer, 2012).

  5. Bada, S. O. & Olusegun, S. J. Res. Methods Educ. 5, 66–70 (2015).

    Google Scholar 

  6. Healey, M. & Jenkins, A. Developing Undergraduate Research and Inquiry (Higher Education Academy, 2009).

  7. Kahn, P. & O’Rourke, K. Understanding enquiry-based learning. in Handbook of Enquiry & Problem Based Learning (Barrett, T., Mac Labhrainn, I. & Fallon, H., eds) 1–12 (CELT, 2005).

  8. Elken, M. & Wollscheid, S. The Relationship between Research and Education: Typologies and Indicators: A Literature Review (NIFU, 2016).

  9. Brew, A. Research and Teaching: Beyond the Divide (Macmillan International Higher Education, 2006).

  10. Healey, M. Linking research and teaching: exploring disciplinary spaces and the role of inquiry-based learning. in Reshaping the University: New Relationships between Research, Scholarship and Teaching (ed. Barnett) (Open Univ. Press, 2005).

  11. Chamorro-Premuzic, T. & Reichenbacher, L. J. Res. Pers. 42, 1095–1101 (2008).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Peek, S. L., Mah, K. M. & Weiner, J. A. Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 74, 4133–4157 (2017).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  13. Ryan, R. M. & Deci, E. L. Am. Psychol. 55, 68–78 (2000).

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  14. Kluijtmans, M., de Haan, E., Akkerman, S. & Van Tartwijk, J. Med. Educ. 51, 645–655 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Sharma, A. E., Knox, M., Mleczko, V. L. & Olayiwola, J. N. BMC Health Serv. Res. 17, 693–707 (2017).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Sacristán, J. A. et al. Patient Prefer. Adherence 10, 631–640 (2016).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Healey, M., Jordan, F., Pell, B. & Short, C. Innov. Educ. Teach. Int. 47, 235–246 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Visser-Wijnveen, G. H., Van Driel, J., Van Der Rijst, R., Verloop, N. & Visser, A. High. Educ. Res. Dev. 29, 195–210 (2010).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Griffiths, R. Stud. High. Educ. 29, 709–726 (2004).

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


We thank the patient, his parents and family, and all (clinician-)scientists, medical doctors and students who participated in the Pathology course. We acknowledge the University Medical Centre Utrecht, the Faculty of Medicine, and Utrecht University for their support. Finally, we thank M. Kluijtmans (Utrecht University) for critical reading of this manuscript.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Niels Bovenschen.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Drost, R.H., Dictus, W.J.A.G., Prakken, B.J. et al. How a four-year-old boy connects healthcare, biomedical research and undergraduate education. Nat Biotechnol 37, 1092–1095 (2019).

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing