The name of Matilde Monteiro-Soares, an integrated researcher of CINTESIS – Center for Health Technology and Services Research and assistant professor of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Porto (FMUP), has been in the news with a number of studies of great impact in areas such as diabetes and COVID-19. The most recent concerns the allocation of 40 thousand euros in funding by the Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT), to develop aproject on the immunological profile of patients with COVID-19 , which the researcher coordinates.
She was born in 1983, at the Vila Nova de Gaia Hospital, where her mother worked. She studied at the Colégio da Gaia, at the School E.B. 2/3 Soares dos Reis, and at the Liceu Almeida Garret. She admits that it looks like she “spared neurons” in secondary school. She often jumped from class to class and never liked to be formatted even if she was forced into subjects in which at the time she did not see any use.
“I was known for being easily distracted and had many other interests. On top of that, next to the Liceu, there was the Almeida Garrett Library. I would go there to borrow books and sometimes I read during classes. I mainly read Fernando Pessoa, Mythology, Archeology, poetry, short stories … but I read a little of everything and looked for an education that will fit my needs”, she recalls.
She was more inclined towards the health area because she simply liked it and also due to the professional opportunities it offers. She kind of stumbled over Podology. “By chance, in my 12th year, I went with a friend to a podiatry appointment and I was fascinated. I entered Podology at CESPU and, in the first year, I was completely surrendered and in love”, she says.
Passion is, moreover, a word she likes to conjugate in the first person. “I like being in love and I fall in love with many things at the same time, things that I add to my professional background. I find it easy to learn to like different things”, she continues.
“I like to be a piece of a bigger puzzle”
She did an internship at the Vila Nova de Gaia Hospital Center/Espinho E.P.E., integrated into the multidisciplinary team of Pé Diabético, where she worked from 2007 to 2013. She went to some private clinics but she admits that her passion is public service. “I don’t like working alone. I like to work in a team and to be the piece of a bigger puzzle”, she says.
She studied her Master’s in Evidence and Decision in Health at FMUP from 2007 to 2010, while working. After earning that degree, she was invited to stay at the institution to teach, as a volunteer professor. Stopping studying was out of the question. She decided to apply to the Doctoral Program in Clinical Research and Health Services (PDICSS) at FMUP and eventually earned a PhD scholarship from FCT. But the scholarship forced her to leave the clinic. I said no. The following year, she applied again and this time she accepted the terms. She completed her PhD in 2016. After that, she was a post-doctoral grantee of the project NanoSTIMA right until the end of 2018. In 2019, she began working as assistant professor at FMUP.
She has several prizes in her curriculum, with emphasis on the Honorable Mention in the Pedro Eurico Lisboa Lilly Prize / Portuguese Society of Diabetology (SPD), in 2017. She is the author of more than thirty research articles in scientific journals and belongs to several national and international scientific societies, such as International Working Group on Diabetic Foot (IWGDF), the Diabetic Foot Study Group and the Study Group for the Diabetic Foot of the SPD.
She has been at CINTESIS practically since the beginning, first as a collaborator and then as an integrated researcher. Currently, she is a member of the group EvidenS&HTA: Evidence‑Based Decision Making, Research Synthesis and Health Technology Assessment
and a collaborator in many other groups within the same unit. She has researched in areas as diverse as the Diabetic Foot, Gastroenterology, Microbiology, Internal Medicine, and the like, with a focus on the methodological component, synthesis of evidence, and biostatistics.
“Our goal is to prevent the first ulcer”
In Diabetic Foot, the main focus of her research has been on identifying the risk of complications in order to better prevent them. “There are several validated scales, namely to identify the risk of ulcer and amputation. We know that it is a whole cascade of events: those who have an ulcer are at greater risk of amputation and death. Our goal is to identify and prevent the first ulcer. One of the big problems is knowing how to do the screening, when, by whom, in what situations and where we can intervene to be more effective”, she explains.
For Matilde Monteiro-Soares, “this is a very neglected area. There are not many studies that can provide substantiation for the decisions made. Even today it is such a virgin terrain, in which there are so many questions for which we have no answers. However, we know that diabetes is one of the most common diseases and with a tendency to increase”.
In addition, “it is very difficult to attract people to work in this area and to break barriers with patients and their families. Most of the time, there is no pain and patients do not understand what is at stake. Today it is discussed whether we should inform the patient that having a diabetic foot ulcer is like having cancer. In fact, it has much higher mortality than having breast cancer. On the other hand, it is also very gratifying because we have managed to revert situations in which destiny would already be drawn. When we manage to change something, it is a fantastic victory”.
So the investigation continues. Currently, there are studies focusing on the identification of palliative care needs in people with Diabetic Foot and in the progression of their complications, in collaboration with the Local Health Unit of Baixo Alentejo.
She recently published a paper on symptoms and diseases associated with COVID-19, in which she identified 30 different symptoms. This month, it was also learned that another project -this one on inflammation and the immunological profile of patients infected with SARS-CoV-2- under her coordination was awarded 40 thousand euros in the second edition of RESEARCH4COVID, promoted by FCT.
I want to continue researching and teaching, opening, even more, the range of interdisciplinary collaborations, inside and outside CINTESIS, that is, to increasingly collaborate with people from different areas, who have enriched many projects.
Do not know. I don’t like making plans. I am often taken to destinations that I did not plan and that are just as good. I ride the wave.
Life Beyond Research
I enjoy reading, watching movies, and TV series, photography, eating. I love hiking and being with friends, chatting, and playing board games. I love normal lives [laughs].