Will Joyce Browne be the 2019 Science Talent?

Posted by Maria Codina on April 29, 2019 at 11:14 am

New Scientist, the international magazine on science and technology, is organising the annual election of the Science Talent (Wetenschapstalent). This award was established to provide young scientists with a platform and to stimulate them in their research activities. We are proud to announce that UMC Utrecht and Julius Global Health researcher Joyce Browne (1987) has been nominated as one of the 25 candidates for this year’s award.


Joyce, a passionate researcher and assistant professor at Julius Global Health, conducts research on maternal health. What drives her passion? “Around the world, pregnancy and delivery are some of the most important aspects of life. Yet, your place of birth affects your opportunities in life: a pregnant woman in Sierra Leone is over a hundred times more likely to die then I was during my pregnancy. To me, this seems fundamentally unfair and I believe we have the potential to do something about it!”


Maternal morbidity

Since obtaining her doctoral degree in 2016 with a thesis on ‘Improving maternal health in urban low resource settings’, Joyce has been studying how women’s access to adequate healthcare during pregnancy, delivery or maternity period can be improved worldwide. “As the quality of care concerns many aspects, I collaborate with various disciplines, including doctors, epidemiologists, anthropologists, geneticists, health economists and ethicists”, she explains. “We look into the local situation and subsequently decide on the focus of the research. For example, in Ghana and Nigeria we concentrate on disorders related to high blood pressure during pregnancy – the number one cause of maternal mortality in these countries. During these studies we follow a large cohort of pregnant women suffering from high blood pressure.” In Tanzania, Joyce is conducting another research together with a PhD student on improving the quality of care during delivery. The purpose of this study is to reduce the amount of stillbirths. Furthermore, she is also involved as a supervisor of two PhD candidates in Suriname, who have set up a national record system for maternal morbidity and mortality during pregnancy. These findings can be used to improve the quality of maternal healthcare.


Social relevance

How does she view her work? “I am proud of the way we conduct research: always in close collaboration with local doctors and researchers and, where possible, attached to dissertations. In this way, we assure that our research questions are socially relevant and can be implemented in practice. The doctoral researchers are usually doctors within the hospitals where we conduct our studies and where we aim to improve the quality of care.” Joyce is proud of the booklet CarryCare, in which the stories and experiences of pregnant women, doctors and researchers are described. “The booklet was presented at a symposium we organised in Accra, on the future of obstetric research in Ghana. It provides a beautiful illustration of our work.”


Joyce is devoted to her work: “I supervise science interns and PhD candidates in Ghana, Nigeria, Zanzibar and Suriname. Furthermore, I teach, work on manuscripts of articles or grants proposals, or carry out data analyses. Every once in a while, I am abroad for ‘fieldwork’ to engage in our research projects on site.” Furthermore, Joyce contributes to the blog ‘Faces of Science’, an initiative of KNAW/Jonge Akademie. Moreover, she is active on twitter as @JoyceBrowne and is frequently present in the media with opinion articles in Dutch and International journals.


Vote for Joyce!

The winner of Science Talent (Wetenschapstalent) 2019 will be elected on the 31st of May and will receive a trophy and €2,500. How would Joyce like to see the money spent? “If I win, I would like to donate the money to the Ghanese patient organisation for women who have suffered from high blood pressure during pregnancy or pre-eclampsia”, Joyce answers. “The money can be used to set up a project to improve follow-up care. In Ghana, this sum of money can be of a true contribution to maternal care.”


Want to help Joyce win the Science Talent 2019 award? You can cast your vote until the 7th of May via newscientist.nl/talent. The election of the Science Talent winner will be partly based on the audience’s vote, and partly on the vote of an expert jury under the lead of Stan Gielen and Willy Verstraete, chairpersons of NWO and FWO. The top-five talents with the highest combined scores will present their research at New Scientist Live: a look at the future on the 31st of May at TivoliVredenburg, Utrecht. The evening will conclude with the unveiling of this year’s Science Talent!

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