After obtaining a master degree in biomedical sciences at Ghent University, Heleen enrolled in a complementary course of Food Science and Nutrition. Triggered by what she had learned she started working for the Centre for Evaluation Research and Surveys of the National Institute of Public Health in Mexico. Initially she conducted a literature review about delivery and utilization of the Oportunidades programme, Mexico’s key development programme, but she got soon involved in various other projects such as an impact evaluation of the national pay-for-performance programme of Rwanda and a screening and prevention programme in the prisons of Mexico City. During this period (2006-2009) Heleen developed a special interest in behavioural and epidemiological studies with regard to STI prevention, detection and treatment. This led to a PhD at ICRH during which Heleen will focus her research on the acceptability of the HPV vaccine in Kenya.
Heleen successfully defended her PhD thesis entitled: "Introduction of HPV vaccination in Kenya" in June 2016.