Portrait of Dr. Willem Wassink, surgeon and head of the Antoni van Leeuwenhoekhuis clinic from 1921 to 1953.
In 1946, Wassink consulted with Den Hoed, director of the Rotterdam Radiotherapy Institute, and the Health Care Inspectorate about the improvement of radiotherapy in the Netherlands. It was decided that the Netherlands Cancer Institute would set-up a satellite department in the eastern part of the country, in the town of Deventer and that the RRTI would do the same in the south in Eindhoven. The first outpatient clinic with AVL specialists took place on 21 October 1946 in the Geertruiden Gasthuis in Deventer. The satellite department in Deventer opened in 1947 with two X-ray machines and a diathermy unit. Either Lokkerbol or Wassink travelled weekly to Deventer for patient clinics. This ceases exactly 15 years later on 21 October 1961 when the cancer centre in Deventer is opened. This development highlights the considerable influence Wassink had on the role of the Netherlands Cancer Institute as a national centre for research and the treatment of cancer.
He also had a great influence on radiotherapy; firstly, because of his long and intensive collaboration with leading radiation oncologists such as Den Hoed (1922-1940) and Lokkerbol. He allowed them the freedom to participate in surgery and pathology. As a result of this combined modality treatments were designed and tested in the NKI; secondly, for his achievements in installing the 1 MV machine in 1939, the Millionair, and for realising new developments in radiology at the end of the 1930's.
Besides his work as clinical director and surgeon at the AVL, he was during his lifetime also committed to spreading knowledge and providing advice on the causes of cancer, and to break lifestyle and nutritional habits that were harmful. He also advocated that primary care should take place in health carecentres. The organization of the health care system in the newly reclaimed land of the former sea inlet IJsselmeer is an experiment based on his ideas.
Wassink and with him most of the leading physicians and researchers in the Netherlands Cancer Institute, such as Korteweg, Waterman and Lokkerbol, were known as difficult personalities. Nonetheless, this worked in their favour as suitable pioneers in various domains thereby giving the institute its great name.