How staying true to himself led Sebastiaan Verboeket to successfully defend his PhD

For Sebastiaan Verboeket, perseverance and staying true to his passions are the common threads that have weaved his story and led him to different positions within the health field. The most recent path has led him to obtain his PhD in medicine, titled “Disentangling Health Risks for People Ageing with – or whilst at Risk of Acquiring – HIV in the Netherlands|Living with a Legacy”. Dr. Sebastiaan Verboeket recently defended his PhD in front of his promoters, prof. dr. P. Reiss & prof. dr. M.F. Schim van der Loeff, at the University of Amsterdam.

Sebastiaan was destined for research; it’s in his blood. Sebastiaan’s grandfather was a researcher, so growing up, discussions during family gatherings would center around research methods. However, Sebastiaan did not begin his journey in education thinking he would be destined for a PhD. As a medical student, he partook in a scientific internship in Pittsburg where he investigated the concept of gels used rectally to prevent HIV transmission. This was his first foray into the world of HIV/AIDS research. This research sparked something in Sebastiaan and is what ultimately led Sebastiaan to AIGHD.

During his PhD, Sebastiaan published several papers on aging with HIV and its risk factors. He studied the causes of why people living and aging with HIV have certain comorbidities, which specific drugs may contribute to HIV-related comorbidities, and whether immune activation was related to certain sexual behaviors. The latter was a concept that had been hypothesized, but never proven. Finding this proof was not only the most exciting moment of his PhD, but Sebastiaan also received an award for this publication.

Sebastiaan’s research has not only confined him to sitting in front of a computer. He has also been involved in grass-roots activism to promote PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) at PrEPnu, giving workshops, sharing information with people from AIDSfonds and RIVM, and chairing the organization. Not only is he making a difference by contributing a wealth of HIV research, but he is also making a real difference in the lives of people at risk for HIV in the Netherlands today.

After first thinking he would end up in internal medicine by way of research in HIV and aging, Sebastiaan has ultimately decided to pursue a career at the Jellinek Clinic, an addiction care facility, aspiring to become an addiction medicine specialist. Throughout his years of HIV research, Sebastiaan notes, “I realized they [men who have sex with men] are not burdened with HIV as much as they were over the last 20 years. But there is another problem that has been there for quite a while already, and that is addiction.” While continuing to follow his passion of helping people, Sebastiaan has decided that he wants to elevate this type of holistic approach to treating addiction. “I believe very much in the biopsychosocial model. I think it fits me more than internal medicine, which focusses more on just the biomedical aspects of medicine.”

After spending years researching and dedicating his life to helping others, Sebastiaan has found his calling in addiction treatment. Yet, he won’t forget the people and places that have helped him along the way. “I learned so much from the organizations that I worked with. I spent a day a week at AIGHD, a day with the GGD, and a lot of time at the Amsterdam UMC and with the HIV Monitoring foundation. I got the best of each of those organizations and am so happy with the result.”

From the entire team at AIGHD, we congratulate Dr. Sebastiaan Verboeket on his PhD and wish him the best of luck in his future role as an addiction specialist.