Professor, Chief Physician, Division of Infectious Diseases, Helsinki University Central Hospital.
One of the most important events of my career as a researcher was the opportunity I got in 1992 to arrange with the support of the Paavo Nurmi Foundation an international conference in Hanasaari, Helsinki
Cooperation with other researchers
I am glad to have had the opportunity to collaborate with many important researchers and to supervise young researchers.
I was born in Helsinki in 1944. I obtained my Licentiate in Medicine in 1969 and defended my doctoral thesis in Medicine and Surgery in 1972 at the University of Helsinki. My thesis concerned the influence of the cell wall structure of salmonella bacteria on their pathogenicity. Later on, in the 1970s, I specialised in Internal Medicine and Infectious Diseases at Helsinki University Central Hospital (HUCH). I became a Docent in Clinical Microbiology in 1976, and in Internal Medicine in 1987. I have held several posts at HUCH and at the University for over 38 years, the last ten years as Chief Physician of the Division of Infectious Diseases. I was awarded the title of professor in 1998.
My researcher training was good, first in my doctoral research under the supervision of academician Pirjo Mäkelä, and later on as a researcher at Harvard Medical School, Boston from 1977 to 1978. My main area of research over the past 30 years has been the importance of infections in the aetiopathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. My enthusiasm for the subject first arose when I saw in clinical work young patients with no known risk factors suffering a cerebral or myocardial infarction after an acute infection.
I have been fortunate to work with many famous researchers; let me name Pekka Saikku and Maija Leinonen, with whom I have investigated the role of chlamydia pneumonia in the aetiopathogenesis of atherosclerosis. I have studied the role of infections in the pathogenesis of myocardial infarction for decades with Markku Nieminen, and in the pathogenesis of ischaemic stroke with Markku Kaste. Pirjo Mäkelä and Jussi Huttunen have supported me from the beginning. I have had the pleasure of supervising the doctoral research of many young researchers, including Kimmo Mattila and Jaana Syrjänen, both investigating (particularly dental) infections as risk factors for cardiac and cerebral infarction in the late 1980s.
Over the last ten years, I have worked with Juha Sinisalo, Marja-Liisa Lokki and others. In this connection I would like to single out the doctoral thesis of Anil Palikhe, which demonstrated that certain HLA types protect against coronary disease while other types act as risk factors. Infections have proved to be an important risk factor in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. However, experiments with antibiotic therapy have yielded partly conflicting and negative results in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases, one exception being influenza vaccination, which has turned out to be an important means of reducing cardiovascular mortality. At the moment, the potential of pneumococcal vaccination in the reduction of cardiovascular diseases is being investigated in other countries, because it seems that pneumonia quite often precedes myocardial infarction.
One of the most important events of my career as a researcher was the opportunity I got in 1992 to arrange with the support of the Paavo Nurmi Foundation an international conference in Hanasaari, Helsinki, at which the world’s leading researchers discussed the role of infections in the pathogenesis of cardiovascular diseases. I am deeply grateful to the Paavo Nurmi Foundation for this support.
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