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In the latest in our Mental Health Matters series, we ask Culture Trip founder Dr Kris Naudts what prompted him to put mental health at the heart of his travel and media start-up. Lee Hayhurst reports


ulture Trip founder Dr Kris Naudts has not had the most conventional


of journeys to running his own company. Te clue to his story is the moniker Dr, which refers to his medical past and


a successful career as a psychiatrist. Tis background is driving his


determination to ensure the travel, media and entertainment start-up sets standards for staff welfare and, in particular, mental wellbeing. Naudts’ decision to embark on


a seven-year medical degree in his native Belgium came when, aged 18, someone close to him died. Te tragedy instilled in him a zeal to “be helpful in the world” and a compassion for other people’s welfare. At heart, Naudts is a scientist and


it was this characteristic that saw his early medical career veer away from general medical practice into genetics and neurosurgery. He was involved in pioneering


research on Parkinson’s disease in medical school where he came to realise the body parts he was interested in were all “above the neck”. Ten an eye condition leſt him


Dr Kris Naudts 16 27 JUNE 2019


with impaired vision. With a career as a brain surgeon ruled out, he considered psychiatry but found it too “wishy washy” and not analytical enough. However, aſter studying


neurology, he returned to psychiatry, encouraged by a professor who agreed it needed a more scientific ethos.


Psychiatric expert Naudts threw himself in to his new specialism, studying the science behind conditions such as schizophrenia, depression, suicide and antisocial behaviour. “I really loved it,” he says. “I felt


great compassion for the people who were suffering, and I found the stigma they suffered unjust and unfair. It appealed to me to try to do something about that.” Naudts completed four degrees


and won a number of accolades, but soon realised he wanted to take his career to the next level at a centre of excellence abroad. By then with two young children, he opted for the Institute of Psychiatry at King’s College, London, and spent one of the happiest and most fulfilling years of his career commuting between London and Belgium. “I was obsessive,” he said. “I only leſt the library twice to explore the


city. With all the research going on, I absorbed everything like a sponge.” Eventually, Naudts relocated to


London with his family to take up a formal post at the institute, which he eventually combined with a medical director role at a new, private psychiatric hospital. So, what prompted him to leave


an impressive medical career to set up a company which struggled at first to survive before securing its future with $80 million funding last year? Naudts says he’d started to feel


unfulfilled as a psychiatrist, offering diagnoses and prescribing pills for problems caused by a complex interaction of biology, circumstance and personality. “Te challenge for me, and the


reason I wanted to leave, was there may be an underlying biological cause but most of the consequences are social, emotional or cultural,” he says. “Te consequences of being depressed play out at work, play out with your partner and in your personal life. Biology is just one aspect. “Prescribing drugs does work, but


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