“It pleases His Majesty the King …” With this announcement, approximately 2,750 Dutch people have been decorated today. The high distinction of Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion went to Prof. Edward Nieuwenhuis, until May last year medical scientific manager at the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital, part of the UMC Utrecht. Nieuwenhuis is Full Professor of Biomedical and Life Science at University College Roosevelt in Middelburg since 1 May 2020.

Nieuwenhuis received his royal honor for being an internationally leading medical researcher, inspiring teacher, and mentor. He was nominated by chairman of the board Margriet Schneider when he retired from UMC Utrecht last year. In her recommendation, she calls him: “an effective professor with courage, who has achieved an exceptional amount for Utrecht and national pediatrics.” He conducted pioneering research in inflammatory bowel disease. At the same time, as professor of pediatrics at Utrecht University, he inspired a whole generation of doctors / researchers and is a socially inspired doctor who put Utrecht on the map internationally for care, research and treatment of children with serious conditions.

Knighted in Rotterdam
Nieuwenhuis received his knighthood in the city hall of Rotterdam from Mayor Aboutaleb for his professional and voluntary commitment to health care and society. In the congratulations, the mayor stated: “It is a well-deserved token of appreciation for, among other things, your groundbreaking research into intestinal disorders in children, your commitment to the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology and the professionalization of pediatrics as a whole.”

Bogota and Columbia
Nieuwenhuis (1965) studied medicine in Amsterdam and started in a children’s hospital in Bogota and Colombia. From 1994 he continued his training as a pediatrician at the WKZ and Catharina Hospital in Eindhoven. He was one of the first to provide answers to pediatric questions online at the time. During his training he started his scientific research into the immune system of the intestines. His PhD research in Utrecht and Boston (Harvard) led to the discovery of the role of immune cells in the development of chronic intestinal inflammation. He also worked closely with the Hubrecht laboratory in Utrecht by studying intestinal organoids (mini intestines in tissue culture). He then specialized at the Erasmus Medical Center Rotterdam as a pediatric gastroenterologist.

Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital
In 2009 Nieuwenhuis returned to the Wilhelmina Children’s Hospital as professor of pediatrics. In that role he was a role model for students, doctors in training due to his sharp problem analysis and above all his ability to connect with children and parents. In addition, Nieuwenhuis supervised research into, among other things, chronic fatigue and child abuse. He was also one of the first to set up a children’s council to advise the management of the children’s hospital.

Professor with courage
Nieuwenhuis did not shy away from a daring approach. For example, he took a clear stand for the establishment of the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology. Despite enormous resistance, he continued to champion a single national center for complex child cancer care and scientific research. As an authoritative and connecting scientific manager, it was partly to his credit that the Princess Máxima Center established itself in Utrecht, as now the largest and most modern children’s cancer hospital in Europe. He did this together with the municipality of Utrecht, Utrecht University, health insurers, parents of patients and pioneers of the Princess Máxima Center for pediatric oncology.

Broad support
Because of his enormous versatility, significance as a brilliant academic medical specialist and great merits to society, the nomination of Nieuwenhuis was widely supported by Jan van Zanen (former mayor of Utrecht), Marcel Levi (University College London Hospitals), Rob Pieters (Board of Directors) member of the Princess Máxima Center), Scott Snapper (Boston Childrens Hospital), Anton Pijpers (chair of Utrecht University) and Hans Clevers (Hubrecht Institute). All this added up to the decoration of Edward Nieuwenhuis as Knight in the Order of the Netherlands Lion.