It all started with a summer job
I was Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Helsinki from 1991 to 2008, working in the III Division of Internal Medicine and, after the divisions merged, in the endocrinology and cardiology units. I have also been a visiting research professor at the University of Cincinnati, Ohio, from 1978 to 1979, and in the diabetes research unit of NIH (National Institute of Health) in Phoenix, Arizona, from 1983 to 1984. From 2000 to 2004, I was “Nordic Professor”, a joint professorship between the Universities of Helsinki and Gothenburg. This was the beginning of close collaboration with the lipid researchers at the Wallenberg Institute, work that is still ongoing today.
When I was just “a young amanuensis”, during Christmas leave, the haematologist Pekka Vuopio encouraged me to ask for a summer job in 1963 from Professor Esko Nikkilä, the Chief Physician of III Division of Internal Medicine, and that was where it all started. My first job was in the Department of Medicinal Chemistry, where Prof. Nikkilä’s research laboratory was located. My first project was to develop a method for plasma insulin measurement to help study the connection between insulin and myocardial infarction. An article about my work was published in The Lancet in 1965. Today, high insulin concentrations and insulin resistance are known risk factors in coronary heart disease. The subject of my thesis, “Effects of free fatty acids and triglycerides on insulin secretion”, was a great idea from Prof. Nikkilä. The subject is still topical, because over the last few years it has been shown that extra fat is also accumulated in the pancreas and cells, disrupting their functions. The Paavo Nurmi Foundation supported my research from 1985 to 1990. This enabled me to work as a researcher at a critical time when, among other issues, I was applying for the position of professor. Over the years, the Paavo Nurmi Foundation has also supported the younger members of my research group. This funding has been extremely important for our research.