We spoke with Emma to learn more about her journey and how SACH motivated her to pursue her passion for pediatric cardiology, and how the Netherland's young leadership group is making a big difference in children's lives.
Where and when were you born?
I was born in Haarlem, a small city close to Amsterdam in 1990. When I was three years old my family moved to the north of The Netherlands where I grew up.
How did you first hear about SACH? Why did you want to get involved?
In 2013 I started studying Medicine in Amsterdam and finished my bachelor three years later. Before I could start my masters degree, I had a few months in between and I wanted to dedicate my time to something meaningful. I heard about a big event coming up - The Symphony of the Heart - to raise money for children with congenital heart defects. I thought that this event was so special that I immediately emailed Save a Child’s Heart Young Leadership in The Netherlands to get involved.
Why did you want to become a doctor?
Becoming a doctor is what I’ve been telling myself I wanted all my life. Since I was a child I have had a passion for medicine and helping people. A big role model in my life was my aunt who sadly passed away just before I started medicine. She always inspired me to pursue a job in healthcare. Getting selected wasn’t that easy, but I was so motivated that I didn’t give up. Receiving my doctors degree was a very special moment to me and my family.
What experiences motivated you to pursue medicine?
I was always interested in cardiology, I just love the heart as an organ. During an anatomy class we would be taught about congenital heart defects and I found that so interesting. From then on I wanted to become a pediatric cardiologist and save as many children’s lives as possible.
What medical training have you received and where?
I started studying medical pharmaceutical sciences in Groningen before I started medicine in Amsterdam. The Netherlands is not that big, but it wasn’t possible for me to finish both.
Why did you choose your specialty?
I chose pediatrics because children are so open minded, honest, funny and have their whole future still ahead. I like to see a patient as a whole and next to the physical part I find the social aspect in pediatrics very important.
What is your favorite YL event that you host?
The documentary night, A Heartbeat Away in the Royal Tropical Institute in Amsterdam, was the first event I hosted and I thought that was the best for a long time. But organizing a running event each year in the summer and seeing the number of runners grow each year who keep raising more and more money, is something very special to me. The runners are so motivated and dedicated and when they cross the finish line and you see the group together, it's such a heartwarming feeling.
What are your hopes for YL in the Netherlands?
At the moment Young Leadership is focused in Amsterdam, but I would love to see us grow and cover all of the Netherlands with nice events on all medical faculties.
What experiences have you had so far with Save a Child's Heart have stuck out to you - can you share a story?
To be a good leader of Young Leadership I thought I had to go and see the work of Save a Child’s Heart for myself. So I stayed at the house for a month and joined the medical team in the hospital as an medical intern. At that moment a new group of children and their moms arrived from Kenya. A little boy of only 7 had to undergo surgery in that first week. I was able to join the surgery and saw him recover in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit. The drive to recover and heal to go back to the house and join the kids there was amazing and blew me away. If that was me I don’t think I would be able to think about football, but these kids are so adaptive, they knew they were therefor surgery, but also that their new life started and wanted to explore it! I loved that.
What are your hobbies? What do you like to do in your spare time?
When I grew up in the north of the Netherlands I’ve been skating, but during medical school I switched to field hockey and I’m still in a hockey team in Amsterdam now. I like it to go outside and go for a nice walk.
What makes SACH special to you?
SACH is extremely special to me for so many reasons:
The Save a Child’s Heart family and the heartwarming stories of the children who make the non-profit so special to me, the dedicated team of volunteers - all so motivated in their own fields including, doctors and nurses. I am inspired by SACH's work in and also outside the hospital, in the SACH Children's Home and on missions abroad, and by the global affiliates all over the world raising funds to make it all happen. SACH will always have a special place in my heart. When the runners of our running team cross the finish line and tell me how much funds they have raised with their run, I feel so grateful to tell the team in Israel that we are able to sponsor the treatment of the next children to come to the hospital. It's the best feeling ever!
How many years have you been involved with SACH?
I joined Young Leadership in 2016, just a few months before the documentary night in the museum. Seeing over 400 people that have come to and listen to our mission made me realize even more how special this non-profit is.