A personal story by virologist Marion Koopmans

May 2, 2023

The last episode of the third season of “OmniTalks – Specialists in healthcare” features Marion Koopmans, Professor of Virology at Erasmus MC. She speaks with Daniëlle Friskes, Business Director Health and Biotech at Omnicom PR Group, about her love of art and photography, her sudden BN’ership and the book her son wrote about her. The spoken language of the episode is Dutch.

Lessons from the pandemic

“We live the way we live, we travel, the world is one big village. That has consequences. How do we deal with that, how do we prepare for that, how do we make sure that society becomes more resilient to that.” Marion chose the minstrel-like song, by the griot singer Ali Farka Touré, as the first fragment. It tells of setbacks in life and about opportunities to deal with unexpected situations that come your way. That touches her because, although as a virologist she knows the behaviors of infectious diseases and also played a part in recognizing the early stages of the corona pandemic in terms of demand, the scale and disruption was as impactful for her as it was for others.

Marion has been researching the transmission of viruses from animals to humans for years. She won several awards for her role in containing the infectious diseases Zika and Ebola. During the corona pandemic, she became known to the general public as a member of the Outbreak Management Teams. Her son, who grew up with stories about pandemics at the kitchen table, wrote a book called ‘Marion Koopmans. Virologist in a changing world’. As the pandemic progressed, everyone had a different view and therefore a different opinion. From this arose the need to tell the more extensive story about infectious diseases.

To photograph is to observe

In addition to fighting infectious diseases, Marion has a passion for art. In her own time, she photographs the things that catch her attention. Marion received the photo book ‘Pandemic’ during an exhibition in Museum Hilversum, where she saw how art can be a connecting factor between people. Everyone has something to do with the pandemic, everyone has pandemic stories and people exchanged them during the exhibition.

Art has both a personal and professional meaning to her, as there are great parallels between art and science. Experimenting, researching and raising important themes, even if that is abrasive, play a role in both. The last fragment, a video artwork by South African artists William Kentridge, clearly reflects this. During a visit to Denmark, she discovered his art and was moved by the beautiful music, and at the same time the horrific images of body bags and people in yellow suits. The effects of the Ebola outbreak are clearly portrayed. That is what Marion really likes: how you see important social events translated into art.

OmniTalks podcast

The specialist and the person merge into one Marion Koopmans in the third episode of the podcast ‘OmniTalks – Specialists in healthcare’. We get to know the person behind the doctor’s coat. Listen to the episode with Marion, and previous episodes with other specialists on all known podcast channels such as SoundCloud, Apple Podcasts and Spotify.


Season three of OmniTalks: Specialists in healthcare

In ‘OmniTalks: healthcare specialists’, our health communication experts talk to three healthcare specialists. What drives them to dedicate themselves to the health of other human beings? And who are they the moment they take off their doctor’s coat?