The Robin Tavistock Award

The Robin Tavistock Award is presented annually to a person, or group, who it is felt, has made a significant contribution in the field of aphasia. This contribution could be for helping people with aphasia, for personally overcoming aphasia, for crucial research work, or for making a financial commitment to aphasia; essentially this award will go to someone or a group who is inspirational and who has made a major difference. View the previous recipients of award here



The Trustees are delighted to announce that the Rotterdam Aphasia Therapy Study Group, fondly known as RATS, is the recipient of The Robin Tavistock Award 2019.  This is the 1st time, since its inception, that the Award has been made in Europe.

This Award is named after Robin Tavistock, the 14th Duke of Bedford who founded the Tavistock Trust for Aphasia.  It is presented annually to a person, or group who is inspirational and has made a significant contribution to the field of aphasia.

RATS is unique – a collaborative, multi-disciplinary group of people, who have produced, over many years a body of work that has had significant influence and made a difference to the lives of people with aphasia.  The RATS group is made up of clinical linguists, speech and language therapists, neurologists, epidemiologists, neuropsychologists and other medical disciplines. Please see list.

The roots of the group go back as far as the 1970s, when the respected neurologist Dr. van Harskamp set up the Rotterdam Aphasia Foundation at the Erasmus University Medical Centre.  Dr. Evy Visch-Brink was the first to be invited to be part of this new project and not long afterwards Dr. Mieke van de Sandt-Koendeman came on board.  In 1996, Mieke moved to Rijndam Rehabilitation Centre, whilst Evy continued her research and clinical work at Erasmus MC – but the collaboration continued and blossomed.

There have been 3 RATS trials: RATS 1, 56 participants, was published in 2004 – examined whether semantic therapy would have more effect on communicative functioning than phonological therapy.  RATS 2, 80 participants, was published in 20111 – it explored cognitive-linguistic treatment versus communication-orientated treatment.  RATS 3, 152 participants, was published in 2017 – investigated cognitive linguistic intensive treatment in the 1st 4 weeks of treatment versus no treatment.

Running parallel to this work both Evy at Erasmus MC and Mieke at Rijndam, have overseen exceptional work that has involved some of the same group of people (along with others) and which continue to have a positive impact on the aphasia world.  The focus of RATS, and of their clinical practice and research mostly has been, functional outcomes, always putting the person with aphasia at the heart of all that they do.

It is very difficult to encapsulate in a brief summary what is so special about the work that has emerged from the RATS group.  The collaboration has been exceptional; P. Koudstaal and D. Dippel together with F. van Harskamp ensured the integration of the investigations within a medical research model.  The group has produced prestigious work of the highest standards, respected world-wide.  Both Evy and Mieke, in particular, are recognized not only for the quality of their work over decades, but also their ability to bring others on board, for encouraging invaluable collaboration and for their warmth and energy.

The RATS group is an embodiment of what can be achieved when multidisciplinary collaboration and mutual support is central to research and clinical practice.

The RATS group: EG Visch-Brink, clinical linguist; WME van de Sandt-Koenderman, clinical linguist; PJ Koudstaal, neurologist (RATS 1, 2 & 3); DWJ Dippel, neurologist (RATS , 2 & 3); F van Harskamp, neurologist (RATS 1); LML de Lau, neurologist (RATS 3); H Lingsma, epidemiologist (RATS 3).  PhDs SJC Doesborgh, psychologist; M de Jong-Hagelsstein, SLT & neuropsychologist; F Nouwens, SLT & clinical linguist; H el Hachioui, neuropsychologist.

A formal presentation will be made later this year.  TBC