Monia Steenackers
27 February 2019
Michael Eppelmann

When a Patient Becomes an Ambassador

All around the world, Boehringer Ingelheim employees work on creating value through innovation. Travelling with the sun, our “Star Storytellers” series features aspirational individuals from east to west who embody our values and bring them to life.


This month, our Belgian colleague Monia Steenackers shares how her premature pregnancy reinforced her passion to bring innovation to patients and families in their time of need.

One’s everyday professional life does not always make it easy to see the purpose in what we do. According to Monia Steenackers, it is rather unexpected moments of transformation in life that can impact us like an electric shock. “Such moments can make us feel unsettled, they challenge us,” she says. Eight years ago, Monia experienced this herself: Her first pregnancy was such a time. She and her husband were very happy about becoming parents, “and at the beginning everything felt very positive.” Until, six months later, the complications started.


Becoming a patient

Monia started feeling sick, and after one more week her vital organs started to shut down. Rushing to the hospital, she was diagnosed with the HELLP syndrome, which is the cause for serious complications among pregnant women and affects around 3% of all pregnancies. “The doctor told my husband that the only solution to save my life was an emergency caesarian,” Monia says – and one hour later, after only 27 weeks of pregnancy, her little baby girl was born with a weight of 900 grams and a height of 35 centimeters. “She was so small, and I couldn’t hold her in my arms as we were both rushed to the intensive care.”


Meeting the patients

Monia had to stay two weeks in the hospital, her premature baby for three months. “It was the most difficult time in our lives,” she says, “but during this time we started to meet with other patients, other parents of children affected by diseases.” This experience made her aware of the importance of research and innovation as much as never before. Monia today knows that she and her baby would not have survived the HELLP syndrome just 30 years ago. “And that’s why I can stand here today and say to all of you that we work in a great industry.”

For Monia, the most important thing at work is to contribute in her own way to improve public health. “I joined Boehringer Ingelheim as a communication and patient advocacy relations manager because of their ambitious research and development program, and I am very proud to work for the company.” To her, it really matters to reach the patients. “My personal experience has told me one important lesson: The only way any of us can really understand the impact that we are having is by meeting patients.” Seeing the smile on their face when being able to offer a new treatment option – this is a powerful feeling giving a deep sense of pride and purpose. “Reaching people, hearing their stories, relating to them – this is really my strength,” says Monia, “just like spreading the message about Boehringer Ingelheim.”


Becoming an ambassador

Everybody has an important role to play. According to Monia, her role as a communication and patient advocacy relations manager allows her to see this every day. “Yes, we are powered by our people, but we should also be powered by our patients. There is value and importance in their opinions.” Because of this, she strives to emphasize that patient organizations are one of the most important stakeholders of Boehringer Ingelheim. “We should serve their needs with innovation and turn insights into positive actions.” This attitude made the former patient Monia Steenackers not only become an ambassador of our company and innovative healthcare in general, but also a survivor – and today the happy mother of a daughter and a son.

"The only way any of us can really understand the impact that we are having is by meeting patients, says Monia Steenackers. "
Michael Eppelmann

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