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Three KULeuven PhD Vacancies in an innovative interdisciplinary surgery-engineering-legal network program for AI based risk prediction of chronic pain after inguinal hernia surgery (ref. BAP-2024-428)

Prof. Dr. Marc Miserez is full Professor of Surgery in the Department of Development and Regeneration (Unit of Urogenital, Abdominal and Plastic Surgery) at the Faculty of Medicine, KU Leuven. He is also full-time Head of Clinic in the Department of Abdominal Surgery (UZ Leuven) since 25 years. Prof. Miserez is internationally renowned for his clinical and research expertise in abdominal wall hernia surgery and Chronic Postoperative Inguinal Pain (CPIP). He (co-)authored 154 peer-reviewed journal publications (H-index: 32). He is Belgian representative of an international multidisciplinary working group of surgeons and anaesthesiologists that develops a European Algorithm and Strategy for the Management of CPIP (EurA-CPIP).

Prof. Miserez initiated the “FLanders Inguinal and femoral hernia Prospective Registry” (FLIPR) in 2018 and is chairman of the FLIPR Working Group of the Vlaams Ziekenhuisnetwerk (VZN) KU Leuven. The medical/surgical PhD candidate will conduct a doctoral research in this FLIPR project as part of an Interdisciplinary Network (IDN). This IDN is coordinated by prof. Miserez and also involves the engineering/AI team of prof. Bart De Moor (KU Leuven STADIUS) for the analysis and modeling aspects of the risk prediction tool and the KU Leuven Centre for IT & IP Law (CiTiP) of prof. Jan De Bruyne for researching the safety and legal/ethical performance requirements of AI-based medical devices in general and of the software tool to be developed in particular. Each partner will supervise a PhD candidate during the same period.

The tasks of the medical/surgical PhD candidate will be focused on

1. ensuring continued new patient inclusions and maintaining data quality control (incentives for patients and surgeons to support/improve their compliance, source data verification, missing data handling, data scoring...),
2. taking the lead for analysis of clinical data/the prediction model,
3. providing continous medical/surgical input on the relevance and validation of the potential risk variables to both other teams, and
4. organising feedback to all stakeholders. 

For (automatised) quantification of hernia mesh visualisation and expansion on postoperative MRI cross-sectional imaging data in patients, collaboration with members of EurA-CPIP will guarantee efficient use of time and resources.

Direct supervision will be provided by prof. Miserez and the other members of the FLIPR Steering Committee.

Unit website: https://www.uzleuven.be/nl/fli...


Inguinal hernias are the most common surgical pathology with a 27% lifetime risk in men. After hernia repair, chronic postoperative inguinal pain (CPIP) can occur in up to 10% of patients. Treatment of CPIP is disappointing. Prevention is key, yet identifying patients at risk is difficult because of the complex interactions among illness severity, patient characteristics and treatment related factors. The FLanders Inguinal and femoral hernia repair Prospective Registry (FLIPR) is the first population-based cohort of groin hernia patients focusing on the incidence, risk factors for and evolution of CPIP during 5 years postoperatively. FLIPR is supported by the VZN KU Leuven, which allows for participation of 57 surgeons in 21 different hospitals, who collect data systematically by means of standardized operative reporting, and use of validated questionnaires pre- and postoperatively focusing on Patient Reported Outcome Measures. Nearly 4000 patients have been included and 500 new patients are added annually. Our aim is to develop an easy to use Clinical Decision Support software tool with a personalised risk prediction model for CPIP, supporting surgeons and patients in the decision making whether inguinal hernia repair should (not) be executed and if yes, which surgical technique is best suited in a particular patient. Machine learning will be used for creating mathematical models by using software algorithms to identify patterns between complex variables. This tool falls under the EU Medical Device Regulation. We aim to implement medical device legislation and make our software safe and legally and ethically proof. The new easy-to-use high quality and legally sound supporting tool for health care professionals and patients will drastically improve the quality of life of the individual and decrease the important negative socioeconomic effects of inguinal hernia surgery complicated by CPIP. Our experiences will serve as use case to guide development of software tools for risk prediction in other health care domains.

You follow a doctoral track and you will be conducting scientific research in the domain of the defined project, completing the doctoral programme and obtaining a PhD. In addition, you provide educational support in the form of, for example, supervising master's theses.


  • You have obtained a master’s degree in medicine or biomedical sciences.
  • You strive for excellence and have distinguished yourself through excellent study performance or other achievements.
  • You are fascinated by technological developments and digital transformation in AI, medical devices and healthcare.
  • You have an analytical mind, creative thinking skills, and a passion for critical reflection.
  • You have strong communication skills, both oral and written (to be demonstrated through academic publications such as a master's thesis or scientific articles, as well as practice-oriented publications, such as client memos, blog posts, ...).
  • You are flexible and comfortable working both individually and in a(n) (interdisciplinary) team.
  • You can plan your work independently, prioritise where necessary, respect deadlines, and also work under time pressure with respect for colleagues and the ambition to deliver high quality.
  • You have an excellent command of English which can be demonstrated by your earlier texts (thesis, academic and/or professional publications, ...).
  • Expertise on empirical research methodologies is an asset.
  • You have a good knowledge of statistics or you are willing to develop this during your PhD trajectory
  • You are extremely motivated, you like to take initiative as a doer and a thinker, and you are ready to invest the best of yourself.


  • A full-time appointment as a doctoral scholarship holder for 4 years. The research within the FLIPR project will result in a PhD after this period. Start date: October 1, 2024
  • Within a stimulating multidisciplinary environment characterised by a mixture of independence, trust and support.
  • Access to all facilities offered by the university. A number of other benefits, such as a wide range of training and educational programs, a bicycle allowance, eco vouchers, preferential rates at sports and cultural facilities, ...

For more information please contact Prof. Dr. Marc Miserez, tel.: +32 16 344378, mail: marc.miserez@uzleuven.be.

In case of problems with the online application, please contact solliciteren@kuleuven.be.

You can apply for this job no later than 15 August 2024 via the online application tool.

Adding one or two letters of recommendation will strenghten your application.

Apply before: 16/08/2024

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