Role model Inoka Twickler

“I see it as my job to be there for people who feel left out within Amsterdam UMC.”
6 minuten leestijd


“My mother used to work at AMC as a nurse in the neonatology department.” When Inoka Twickler, working in the hematology department and president of Jong Amsterdam UMC, was three months old, she was adopted and moved from Sri Lanka to Ouderkerk aan de Amstel. “In the morning I always got out of my bed extra early to question my mother about her work that night and the babies she sometimes saved. Even then I knew: later I will also work in the hospital.” Twickler also has a half-Moroccan brother and sister, also adopted. “So a multicultural family, something I can enjoy immensely now. But it wasn't always nice to be such a special family.” In Ouderkerk, Inoka stood out quite a bit. “In class, for example, I was the only girl of color. Often I didn't belong and was excluded. From high school on, thankfully, that changed.” When she first looked through a microscope during biology class at age 15, she was immediately sold. “Wow, those cells, so beautiful. Yes, I had to do something with that.” And so she chose to study Biology & Medical Laboratory Research. “In 2015, I started my final internship in the laboratory of the department of experimental vascular medicine and clinical genetics at AMC location, and I've never left the hospital since.”

From Experimental Vascular Medicine and Clinical Genetics to Amsterdam UMC Cancer Center Amsterdam (CCA) and from Experimental Immunology and Rheumatology to Hematology, Inoka is now a true Amsterdam UMC resident with close ties at both locations. Something that comes in handy in her work as president of Jong Amsterdam UMC. “One of our goals at Jong Amsterdam UMC is to get employees to look over the wall of their own department through events. That creates a connection. Because of my work in different departments, spread across both locations, people also know how to find me better and better. I have become a point of contact for colleagues who are struggling with something or need help. Very special. I see it as my job to be there for people who feel excluded within Amsterdam UMC. And as chairman I really have a voice now. I draw attention to any abuses in a department, without of course naming names. I maintain contact with the OR and have a good relationship with Karen Kruijthof of the board of directors, whom I am proud to call my mentor.”


“At the beginning of my career here at Amsterdam UMC, I did mostly laboratory research. For example, I helped a PhD student with her research on CAR T-cell therapy, a special, innovative way to prepare immune cells to fight cancer cells. Because cancer cells arise from the body's own cells, they are often difficult for your own immune system to recognize. With CAR T-cell therapy, we help the most important immune cells, the T cells, by placing an extra antenna/receptor on these cells, so that they can recognize and kill the cancer cells.

In my new position at Hematology, I will be involved in collecting material from cancer patients for the Biobank. So basically the step before research. At the laboratory, we get blood and bone marrow from patients and separate the red from the white blood cells, more specifically peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs). We isolate the PBMCs and freeze them so that research can then be done on them.

Fair is fair, somewhat less exciting lab work than before. But I made a very conscious choice for that. It gives me more time and space in my head to be a good chairman of Jong Amsterdam UMC. And I get a whole new challenge. Because in addition to collecting materials, I'm going to help coordinate the merger of the biobanks. In such a process, you naturally have to deal with all kinds of sentiments. For example, the people at location AMC will soon have to leave their familiar surroundings and an entirely new laboratory will be set up at location VUmc. One location, one process, one system. As part of the team we are going to look together with both teams at how we can harmonize the various work processes of both departments, so that when we become one we work as efficiently and sustainably as possible and really become a top laboratory. That is why I will be working three days at location VUmc and two days at location AMC, so that I can gain insight into the strengths of both teams. In addition to structure and the operational issues, attention to culture and culture change is of course also essential to achieve a new sustainable unity. Two departments with their own identity, values and beliefs must seek a new balance, in which they continue as one department. In that, I hope to be a connecting factor.”

Most proud of?

“Within Amsterdam UMC I have grown and flourished incredibly. I started here as a researcher, I wanted to get a master's degree in research and become a PhD student but I gradually found out that that didn't suit me at all. Something I mainly owe to my work at Jong Amsterdam UMC. Because I came into contact with so many different people with different jobs, I realized that so much more is possible. I also discovered that I was good at communicating and connecting. As chairman but also in my new position at Hematology, I can now further develop those qualities. Within Amsterdam UMC I have been given the space to find out what really suits me, every day I learn something new and the Young Amsterdam UMC Board also sees me growing. In the future I would like to combine my laboratory work and communication skills, for example in the role of team leader, naturally within the walls of Amsterdam UMC.

Amsterdam UMC goes for diverse and inclusive. Where do opportunities lie?

“Inappropriate jokes, unequal treatment, I think it's important that people realize that even within Amsterdam UMC there is still daily discrimination. Yup, pretty confronting huh? Not only have I had to deal with it myself - for example, someone thought it was funny to call me Black Pete- I know plenty of stories of people with a migrant background who are offered fewer opportunities or have to deal with mean comments that are dismissed as a joke. Awareness of the fact that discrimination occurs here, too, is step one.

In order to raise this awareness, I do see more and more beautiful initiatives popping up. Think of Pride where we sailed with a boat last year or the 'Be Yourself Festival'. This positive approach seems to me to be a good way to keep the subject on the agenda. That you encourage positive encounters between employees who differ from each other, to reduce prejudice and stereotypes. More knowledge about each other's (cultural) background can definitely contribute to better dealings with each other. That is also what we try to achieve with our events at Jong Amsterdam UMC. That peek over your own wall. It is actually so incredibly cool that there are so many different nationalities walking around here. I work together with Ghanaians, Chinese, Surinamese, Turks, Americans, French, you name it. When you work at Amsterdam UMC, you get the chance to get to know all these different cultures, stories and backgrounds. Isn't that a privilege?”

Outside of work hours?

“It is my mission to discover as many cuisines of all continents as possible. And for that you really don't have to travel. Not only do I experiment a lot in my own kitchen, Amsterdam is full of international eateries where you can discover new flavors. Looking for a special eatery where you get something slightly different on your plate? Just email me, I'm your woman!”

Do you have any questions for Inoka or would you like to learn more about diversity & inclusion within Amsterdam UMC? Then email to

Text: Sophie Verschoor