On Saturday 13 January, we lost a great friend and the European radiological community lost one of its great communicators and thinkers. Dr. Jan Bosmans, PhD, was a Belgian radiologist and medical-scientific writer who had distinguished careers in both radiology and medical journalism.
Jan was born on 6 July 1955, and very quickly it became clear that he would be a most unusual, multitalented individual. For most of us, the teenage years are a journey to discover ourselves and a quest to find a passion that is interesting enough to fill a life, study, get a degree, and then work as a professional. Jan had the opposite problem: In high school, he excelled in everything, which – paradoxically – made it difficult to choose a life path. He had l'embarras du choix.
Jan was a true polymath, a homo universalis, a renaissance man. He chose to study medicine -- a seven-year journey, spending three undergraduate years at the University of Ghent and completing four graduate years at the University of Antwerp. He obtained an additional degree at the Institute of Tropical Medicine, worked for three years as a general practitioner in a popular neighborhood in Antwerp, and then switched to the emerging world of medical computer applications for two years.
Five years after graduation, he was accepted into the radiology training program at the University of Antwerp. During these years, Jan also obtained a license as a pilot, completed an advanced Spanish language degree, and became interested in several other things. In 1990, Jan was board-certified as a radiologist, and over the following years, he worked as a locum in small hospitals and private radiology practices. Most of us who knew Jan were aware that this would not be the final destination of his ambitions, but merely the end of the beginning.
In 1993, Jan decided to become a full-time medical journalist for Artsenkrant ("The Doctor's Journal"), and very quickly he was promoted to editor in chief of that weekly publication. Next, he also served as editor in chief for Patient Care, and a series of other publications such as Neuron, Ortho-Rheumato, and Skin. In between, he went on missions as a special envoy for Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) in Rwanda and Vietnam, among others, and also wrote two books. He used his vast general knowledge to triumphantly participate in a series of televised quiz campaigns, with victories in the VRT quiz Kennis van Zaken (1995) and a spectacular final win in the Canvascrack in 2006. The University of Antwerp crowned him Medicine Alumnus of the Year in 2006. Jan was able to display his erudition in a friendly, intelligible way, with the implicit desire to educate his audiences.
But blood is thicker than water, and eventually, Jan would return to radiology, where our (=Paul) lifepaths came together again in 2009 at Antwerp University Hospital. It was a privilege for me when Jan asked me to be the supervisor of his doctoral thesis. These were wonderful years for both of us.
The topic of his dissertation was original and rather unconventional: An exploration of the current state and future direction of the radiology main themes in Jan's professional career. The dissertation became a success story and resulted in a widely acclaimed publication in Radiology and a string of other papers in the radiological literature. The public defense of his dissertation occurred in 2011, and it was a triumph -- how could it be otherwise? This scientific success led to Jan being invited to speak at major international conferences. It also earned him a large crowd of loyal supporters who rightly put him on a high pedestal.
During the final stage of his career, Jan was appointed associate professor at the University of Ghent to lead the ultrasonography section, while pursuing his research on communication in radiology. After retiring in 2020, he returned to journalism, interviewing prominent figures in Belgian medicine. Moreover, he decided to write his memoirs (800 pages) so that his grandchildren could understand what kind of person their grandfather really was. Unfortunately, Jan was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in 2021, forcing him to retire from his professional activities in 2022. In the end, he made an incredibly brave decision; few will imitate him.
All of us who knew Jan realized that he was an extraordinary person, a larger-than-life personality, and a very loyal and understanding friend. We shared similar interests and passions, and our discussions were always interesting and stimulating. What really typified him was his empathy and a delicate sense of humor. We leave you with the parting words of his memoirs: Follow your conscience. Be forgiving. Admit your mistakes. Cherish the wonder. Never give up. Love each other ...
Prof. Paul Parizel, PhD, is inaugural David Hartley chair of radiology at University of Western Australia and former ESR president. Prof. Erik Ranschaert, PhD, is visiting professor at Ghent University in Belgium and former president of the European Society of Medical Imaging Informatics.