Faculty Friday Spotlight: Dr. Albert van der Waag
Dr. van der Waag, a native of the Netherlands, joined the AUC faculty full-time in 2005, but his involvement with the university goes back to its earliest days in Sint Maarten, when he was a general practitioner at the Mullet Bay Resort’s medical center. AUC’s fifth semester students would come to his practice to shadow him. Dr. van der Waag enjoyed teaching so much that he eventually sold his practice and joined the faculty in the Department of Clinical Medicine.
How does your experience as a practicing physician influence your teaching?
It is wonderful to help our students become doctors and teach them the latest medical technologies and updates. They keep me on my toes and with my experience of over 40 years as a family physician, I can teach them from the real clinical world. My patients taught me a lot over the years – listening to your patients is so essential. That is why I like the patient-centered interviewing that we teach now from day 1. It is also much better now to realize that each doctor is part of a team and that you have to be a good team player to be successful in medicine. In the time when I was a physician on remote islands, like Saba and Sint Eustatius, you were the sole medical practitioner and had nobody to consult with. That time has changed and now you have a whole team taking care of the patients.
What is your favorite thing about teaching at AUC?
The interaction with the students! We can really focus on teaching our students to become better physicians. I also like the small-group teaching and the fantastic teaching material and resources we have available, like the SimMan (simulated patient) and the standardized patient program.
What are some of your fondest memories of Sint Maarten?
My fondest memories of Sint Maarten are mainly from the time when I was a practicing physician: the interactions with my patients, nurses, and the population of Sint Maarten in general. Patients who shared with you the most personal stories and who you cared for when serious problems arose and when solutions were found. I loved the time when I was doing deliveries and probably have done more than 1,000 deliveries in Sint Maarten, and even delivered triplets on Statia, without an incubator or other doctor present. All three girls are alive and are now mothers themselves.
What are some of your favorite things about Sint Maarten?
Of course as a Dutchman, living in rainy Holland until I was 27, I must say the weather in the tropics is great. Also the people are great in Sint Maarten and I have a lot of good friends here.
What’s something that not many people know about you or that your students would be surprised to learn about you?
I was a classical music radio presenter at our local radio station for many years in the eighties. I also co-owned a Cessna 172 and flew around all the neighboring islands of Sint Maarten. And I was knighted by the Queen of Holland when I was younger for my work for Bangladesh and the smaller Dutch Islands.
Was it always your goal to become a doctor?
Although I dreamed of becoming a medical doctor starting at age seven, after high school, when I was tired of studying all the time, I thought about going into a different field and studied economics at the University of Rotterdam. Then I realized that studying is not that hard and is actually fun, so I picked up my studies in medicine Erasmus University and am very happy that I became a medical doctor.