Prof. Dr. Tine De Backer


Staff member cardiologist head of clinic Cardiovascular Centre
Clinical Pharmacologist
President of the Belgian Society of Hypertension


University Hospital Ghent
University Ghent
Heymans Institute of Pharmacology

What is your role at your work?

  • Clinician at the University Hospital Ghent
  • Clinical Researcher at the University and University Hospital Ghent in domain of Cardiology (Heart & Vessels) and Clinical Pharmacology, collaborating with many other faculties and departments.
  • Teaching students (medicine, pharmacy, nursery) and residents

How did you get interested in your career path?

It all grew rather spontaneously. I love to learn more about so many things and so also about human beings and health. As a teenager I was intrigued by the medicinal power of certain plants.

My teacher of French stimulated me to go for Roman languages, however I chose for Medicine, still fond of learning languages.

As a student all disciplines of medicine interested me. By doing clinical lab work at the department of cardiology and angiology and the clinical pharmacology I came more into touch with the cardiovascular and clinical pharmacology world which I found very interesting and a stimulus of several people helped me in my choice to go for cardiology-angiology while keeping a broad interest in the other disciplines. My interest in so many domains and will to go deeper into these, make me (too) busy all the time.

What are you most proud of in your career or otherwise?

As a clinician I place patients as first and central.

My clinical research is diverse and I enjoy every part of it.

It is an honour to be recognized as an ESH hypertension specialist working in an excellence centre of Hypertension

I am also proud as president of the Belgian Society of Hypertension (°1972, celebrating its 50th anniversary) and grateful to have the continuous trust and support of all BHC board members and of other parties our society collaborates with.

We organize an annual Hypertension Update educational congress with a large participation of GPs, specialists and health care workers interested in hypertension all over the country. We have a yearly scientific meeting where everyone and mainly younger people can present their research.

If time and circumstances allow, we meet with neighbouring hypertension societies.

During the May Measurement Month (MMM) we participate in the awareness campaign of hypertension and actively measure the blood pressure e.g. at the entrance of the hospital. “In May we do not now, we measure your blood pressure”.

What important career challenges have you faced and how did you overcome them?

Some hurdles occurred and although these were tough periods, now I try to see them more as an opportunity than as a barrier. Having left staff positions and my country, finally, while abroad, I fell alone with three small children. These experiences taught me a lot about real life and the world. With the support of my family, I could go on in my work and restart and continue a career at my alma mater the University Hospital Ghent. Still working hard, I sometimes feel guilty not to have been and not be there enough for the children (now adolescents & older, luckily doing well) who are a big support and joy to me.

I am a believer and hope makes one live and with that in mind one can continue a very long way not to say forever.

What advice would you give your younger self?

GO for it, do your (very) best and what you aim end work for will come the sooner or later.
Don’t let you go down in difficult times. What does not kill you makes you stronger.

Be honest with yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to go for and to do what you feel as being the best for you.

Be strong together; each can be complementary to one other.

Respect each other. As we expect from men, also ladies, be respectful and nice to other women; this is already a big step in the right direction.

Highlight your most significant research contributions and publications (3-5) – if relevant to you.

My research contributions are quite diverse and mainly lay within the cardiac and vascular field, ultrasound and pharmacotherapy.

• Ambulatory blood pressure is a better determinant for the left ventricular hypertrophy in moderate essential hypertension than office blood pressure
International Journal of Cardiology 1992; 34: 335-338

• Estimation of walking distance in intermittent claudication: need for standardization
European Heart Journal 1999, 20: 641-644

• The role of whole blood viscosity in premature coronary artery disease in women.
Atherosclerosis 2002; 165: 367-373

• Prevalence and correlates of left ventricular hypertrophy in the African American Study of Kidney Disease Cohort Study. AASK Investigators.
Hypertension 2007; 50(6): 1033-9

• 3 Cochrane reviews of intermittent claudication and pharmacological treatment

• Expert consensus document on the measurement of aortic stiffness in daily practice using carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity. the Artery Society, the European Society of Hypertension Working Group on Vascular Structure and Function and the European Network for Noninvasive Investigation of Large Arteries

• Fibromuscular Dysplasia- Results of a multicentre study in Flanders.
Vasa 2017; 46 (3): 211-218

• Adherence, knowledge, and perception about oral anticoagulants in patients with atrial fibrillation at high risk for thromboembolic events after radiofrequency ablation.
J Adv Nurs. 2018 Nov;74(11):2577-2587

• Insights into functional mitral regurgitation using the average pixel intensity method.
Int J Cardiovasc Imaging. 2019 May;35(5):761-76

• Chronic medication intake in patients with stable coronary heart disease across Europe: Evidence from the daily clinical practice. Results from the ESC EORP European Survey of Cardiovascular Disease Prevention and Diabetes (EUROASPIRE IV) Registry.
Int J Cardiol. 2020

• Community pharmacy-based study of adherence to non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants.
Heart. 2020 Nov;106(22):1740-1746. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2020-316781

• Covid-19 associated reduction in hypertension-related diagnostic and therapeutic procedures in Excellence Centers of the European Society of Hypertension.
Covid-19 Task Force of the European Society of Hypertension.
Blood Press. 2022 Dec;31(1):71-79.

Have you had any significant career mentors? If yes, please provide further details.

Not that I had really specific career mentors, however I consider several persons as mentors. Certain people whom I met during my training and beyond and with whom I could work, I will never forget. From all I have learned something, and I am thankful for that. I am grateful to the promotors of my PhD work, with whom a continuous collaboration developed.

How can we support the next generation of women scientists?

Stimulate and encourage young scientist women to believe in and to go for their projects.
Don’t be scared to approach existing scientific groups and join them whenever you can.
A kind of mentorship where the threshold to approach the mentor is low and more personal advice can be given, could be a support.