Sunday, June 5, 2011

Days 3-5

Meeting with ERC

This morning I met other program officers from the European Research Council – Dr. Vaida Bankauskaite (Lithuania) and Dr. Sally Donaldson (UK), who are with the Advanced Grants Dept. We had a great discussion of science and politics, and they provided a list of current grantees, some of whom I hope to meet along my travels.

Lunch with Gauthier

Eisenhower Fellows has an incredible network of Alumni around the world. The Fellowship is such a life-changing experience that most alumni open their doors and rolodexes to new Fellows, and I have certainly benefitted. Dr. Gauthier Desuter was a fellow in 2009. He is a physician now serving as the Chairman of the Quality Council at Academic Hospital Saint-Luc, UCL in Brussels. Gauthier took me to lunch at Fondation Universitaire, a faculty club shared by a few universities. It smelled of leather bound books and rich mahogany. Gauthier was just named as a medical advisor to the Belgian National Rugby Federation, where he said concussions are starting to be discussed.

Meeting with Professor Paul Wylleman

My next stop was to meet Professor Paul Wylleman, the President of the European Federation of Sports Psychology, at Vrije University. A man with an easy smile, he works on career development of young elite athletes. It was a good discussion and a good end to the day.

Day 4

My Thursday was light, but the important meeting I did have was with Ireland Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sean Kelly. As former president of the Gaelic Athletic Association and Exec Chairman of the Irish Institute of Sport, he holds a lot of sway in the Irish sport world. Kelly’s staffer Kevin Keary joined us. As we walked to the coffee shop MEP Kelly discussed how important President Obama’s visit was to Ireland and Irish-American relations. We reviewed the research out of BU and SLI and he bought in immediately, and was very focused on the youth issue. Kevin followed up with some contacts that will help the Ireland trip, and also mentioned he may be able to help me sit down with staffers in the office of Mr. Santiago Fisas Ayxela, an MEP from Spain who is on the Committee on Culture and Education of the European Parliament and is the member rapporteur on Sport – in English, he is writing the European Union report on Sport, set to be out in July.

Day 5

Kevin Keary came through and I grabbed coffee with Gabi Hernandez, a former professional water polo player who is now working on the report with Santiago Fisas Ayxela. He assured me that concussions were not involved in the EU Sports report, and it is far too late to get them in. However, as a veteran of a significant car accident, he was interested and provided some top secret advice to advance change. I then had a wonderful lunch with Valere Moutarlier, a member of the cabinet of Algirdas Semeta and the department of Taxation and Customs Union, Audit and Anti-Fraud, where he shared some great tips for making the Fellowship a success.

I then hopped a train to Ghent to do some sight-seeing courtesy of former Eisenhower Fellow Michael Voordecker’s and his wife Katrien Van Hoecke. Michael was a fellow last year and works for Hill & Knowlton while serving on as the board chair of multiple retirement communities. His wife Katrien is a public prosecutor. Mike was working late, so Katrien picked me up to take me on a boat tour of Ghent’s canals. Ghent is an amazing place – it was the second largest city in Europe, after Paris, through the 13th century, and its medieval heritage has been well preserved. My favorite part of the boat tour, however, was Katrien pointing various buildings and sharing the criminal backstories of current and former owners. Michael and Katrien were amazing hosts that shared with me the history, and types, of many local Belgian beers…

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