2022 Elections: Candidate Statement for WFN Secretary General

Marianne de Visser (The Netherlands)

Marianne de Visser
Marianne de Visser

My name is Marianne de Visser. I am an adult neurologist from Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and (emeritus) Professor of Neuromuscular Diseases at the University of Amsterdam.

I would like to apply for the position of Secretary General and I am deeply honoured that the Nominating Committee recommended me – together with two other candidates – to the Membership.

I have been committed to the good cause of the WFN for several decades. First as a delegate on behalf of the Netherlands Society of Neurology, subsequently as an Elected Trustee (2002-2008), Chair of the Nominating Committee, Co-opted Trustee (July 2020 through December 2021) and recently President Wolfgang Grisold appointed me as Chair of the Membership Committee and Vice-Chair of the WFN Congress Committee. I have witnessed the growth of WFN. The increasing membership, but also the expanding role of the WFN in several impactful initiatives worldwide are clear signs of leadership.

The close collaboration with the WHO has borne fruit for neurology. The then President Johan Aarli coordinated the Atlas project, resulting in the publication of its First Edition in 2004, showing the country resources for neurological disorders. In 2017, the Second Edition was published, coordinated by past President Raad Shakir and Donna Bergen. The data shows that while the burden of neurological disorders is disproportionately high in low- and middle-income countries, health-care services and resources are often scarce.

Another highlight of the collaboration with the WHO is the recent unanimous approval by the WHO Member States of the Intersectoral Global Action Plan on Epilepsy and other Neurological Disorders. Elected Trustee Alla Guekht and Immediate Past President Bill Carroll together with the Global Neurological Alliance played a significant role in this. 

The WFN puts many efforts in fulfilling its mission 'Fostering quality neurology and brain health worldwide'. Amongst others by the launch of the Brain Health Initiative to promote prevention of brain diseases and improving the outcomes of those living with brain diseases. The World Brain Day is an extremely successful recurring event on July 22 – this year focusing on 'Brain Health for All' conveying five important messages: Awareness, Prevention, Advocacy, Education and Access.

Several WFN Programmes focus on education, in particular aimed at residents and early career neurologists. The COVID-19 pandemic was a tragedy in many aspects, but the coronavirus silver lining was the huge uptake of virtual meetings and the implementation of virtual health care. Both developments greatly facilitate access to education and health care.

President Grisold states in his column in World Neurology that the WFN will need to take diversity, equity and inclusion into consideration in its strategy, that the needs of early career neurologists require specific attention and action and that a platform for patient organizations should be installed in the WFN infrastructure. I embrace those initiatives and I am fully committed to serve the WFN as Secretary General to make those initiatives to a success in close collaboration with the Trustees and the indispensable colleagues from the Head Office.


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