Sofie Brouwers

Trainee in Cardiology
UZ Brussel – Vrije Universiteit Brussel 
Brussels, Belgium

How did you become interested in research relating to Hypertension and Cardiovascular Disease?

From the beginning of my medical training, my preference for the cardiovascular system and its impact on human health and disease brought me to my current research field. Even though the high worldwide prevalence of hypertension keeps on rising, the pathophysiologic explanation remains poor. My first intensive close encounter with the scientific medical literature resulted in a review, written during my Master’s in Medicine (J Hypertens 2010 28:1599-610). In the meantime, I spent my spare hours in the laboratory, observing daily life and activities carefully, and learning how to prepare, perform and assess experiments in hypertension research. A profound interest and drive to contribute to medical scientific discoveries, with the goal of always improving patient care, made me a motivated candidate for fundamental research.

Sofie receiving an ISH award from Alta Schutte during the ISH 2013 New Investigator Symposium

Describe your research & the program/lab that you are in?

After finishing my medical education at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel I started my PhD. I carried out my research partially in Brussels at the Department of Pharmacology – Center for Neuroscience of the Vrije Universiteit Brussel and partially in Boston at Boston University School of Medicine, Department of Pharmacology and the Whitaker Cardiovascular Institute. Currently I am fulfilling my cardiology training.

The research described in my PhD thesis focused on the role of the AT2 receptor in the kidney in the regulation of blood pressure and renal hemodynamics as well as in the brain, in the central regulation of blood pressure. The work supports the role of the AT2 receptor as an important element in the protective arm of the renin-angiotensin system, exerting renal vasodilator effects in the hypertensive state possibly as part of a renally adaptive mechanism, and hypotensive responses after central stimulation of brain AT2 receptors.

What do you consider to be your substantial scientific contribution so far (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

Hypotensive and sympathoinhibitory responses to selective central AT2 receptor stimulation in spontaneously hypertensive rats. S Brouwers, I Smolders, RD Wainford and AG Dupont. Clinical Science. July 2015;129(1): 81-92.

What is your favourite manuscript from a lab or mentor other than your own (provide Pubmed PMID if possible)?

Paulis, L., Steckelings, U. M. & Unger, T. Key advances in antihypertensive treatment. Nat. Rev. Cardiol. 9, 276–85 (2012).

Describe your unforgettable (proudest) moment in science, and the most challenging situation that you have had to overcome (lessons learnt) so far?

The defence of my PhD, almost exactly one year ago was certainly a memorable moment. After many ups and downs in science throughout which perseverance keeps you going, it is wonderful to receive a PhD.

At which conference did you first present? How was your experience?

My first research results, obtained for my Master’s thesis focussing on the role of the AT2 receptor in renal haemodynamics, were accepted for oral presentation at the 22nd European Meeting on Hypertension and Cardiovascular Protection in London, UK in 2012.  The presentation went well and I came back very motivated after receiving quite a lot of positive feedback. Also at this conference, I established my first research contacts that are still very valuable today.

How did you learn about ISH/NIN and its activities?

After graduating I became a Research Fellow and member of the ISH New Investigator Network (ISHNIN). However, it was only when I presented at the 2nd ISH New Investigators’ Symposium at the University of Sydney in September 2012, right before the ISH meeting that I became an active member of the ISH New Investigator Committee and Network.

From then on I have experienced innumerable fruitful and pleasant moments with emerging young researchers from all over the world. Through the ISH NIN I have been able to build a very nice network of junior and senior researchers from different backgrounds with the same enthusiasm for hypertension research.

Sofie – with ISH New Investigator Committee Working Group members – during the Milan 2015 ISH New Investigator Networking and Mentorship Event.

Sofie receiving an award during the ISH New Investigator Symposium in New Orleans in 2013. Pictured with the other award winners and New Investigator Committee members. 

What area(s) do you wish to specialize in the future?


Who is your role model in Science? Why?

It is difficult to choose just one role model. Throughout my research I have met many great people who have inspired me and have been mentors, close by as well as further away.

What are your scientific goals? Advice for talented emerging scientists?

For the moment I am focusing on completing my cardiology training. I would love to be able to develop a career combining clinical, academic and research elements. Contributing to medical scientific discoveries with the goal of continually improving patient care seems very appealing to me.

A selfie of Sofie and Rana El Bikai whilst helping promote the Society on the ISH exhibition booth