Vice-President’s speech at the Spring Conferment Ceremony, 4 May 2018

Promovendi, honorary doctors, esteemed guests, colleagues, families and friends.

It is a great honour to welcome you all to Karolinska Institutet’s spring 2018 conferment ceremony.

This evening we celebrate our new doctors, who will shortly receive their doctor’s hats and diplomas.

And we celebrate you, our new honorary doctors, to whom I extend an extra warm welcome.

I am also delighted to welcome our guests from both inside and beyond our university, including our promovendi’s families, friends, supervisors and colleagues.

The search for knowledge has always been a characteristic of mankind. We have always tried to understand, and whether it was the universe, agriculture or the weather, which was the subject of our curiosity, the knowledge we gained has helped us solve problems and overcome challenges. At some point, we began to structure knowledge and realised the particular value of establishing methods to ensure that knowledge was well supported by facts.

The modern university system has roots in the European medieval university but antecedents, such as Madrassa schools, had existed earlier in Asia and Africa. Madrassa where institutions of higher education, usually attached to a large mosque. From the beginning teaching in theology and law, later expanded to subjects such as literature, mathematics and science. Students could choose subjects and often studied for many years. At the end of their studies, students were awarded a certificate indicating that they were competent to teach. In the 1100 's, there were more than 100 Madrassa schools in cities like Cairo and Damascus. Many of these can be seen as the first modern universities.

According to some sources, the first Doctorate was awarded in Paris in 1150, but not until the early 1800 's, did doctoral dissertation obtain today’s importance as the highest academic degree.

Today's ceremony is thus part of a historical chain with roots in early cultures. The ability to organize, and ensure the quality of knowledge has been instrumental for the development of society as we know it today. From today stretches a chain into the future, where knowledge that today we can only imagine will be obtained and exploited.

Promovendi, you have all have chosen to be a link in a chain of knowledge, the end of which we don’t know and whose beginning is so distant that we cannot see its origin. Over the last 20 years, the world has changed, digitalisation provides opportunities to spread knowledge and make it available to those who need it most. But digitalization has also negative dimensions, ignorance and prejudice are spread with an intensity that was unimaginable when internet was born. In times of uncertainty, where rumours and prejudices influence society, facts, evidence and scientific knowledge must be protected. In this, you each have a responsibility to act. This is your challenge, you will work at higher education institutions or at other workplaces for many years and the protection of a knowledge-based society will be one of your most important and ever-present tasks.

So today is not an end but a beginning.

You promovendi have no doubt already discovered that a doctoral degree opens doors to a world of opportunities.

The most obvious is the university. Whoever chooses to continue their research career at Karolinska Institutet or another university certainly has an exciting future ahead of them.

As researchers in your teams you will make observations with future applications in medicine and healthcare in the form of improved diagnostics, treatments and drugs. You might make observations that have at the time no obvious significance, but that might, decades later, result in a Nobel Prize or a new blockbuster drug. But this is of course not to say that all the improvements, big and small, that continually help to improve human health are any less important. You will also carry the responsibility to educate a next generation of scientists, some of which will one day stand here in the Blue hall and receive their hat and diploma.

Those of you who choose to stay at Karolinska Institutet will be part of a historical transformation that we are just in the middle of, where Karolinska Institutet is investing in both experimental and clinical research with new advanced laboratories being built on our campuses. It is now our common responsibility to explore the potential inherent in these investments. My vision is that Karolinska Institutet should be internationally leading in the process of turning research into better means of prevention, diagnosis and therapy. I’m talking about translational research.

Translational research requires physical proximity – that research is conducted close to the patients it is meant to serve. Few places are better suited to this than the Life Science cluster here in Stockholm. The present and the future bridges over Solnavägen will be symbols and facilitators of the cooperation between Karolinska Institutet and Karolinska University Hospital. We can look ahead towards an exciting future.

For many of you, the path will lead, or has already led you, to the healthcare sector, with which Karolinska Institutet has a very close relationship. It is in health and medical care, that our students get the vital training they need, and it is also there that we find and approach many of medicine’s unsolved mysteries and where the answers we discover can do the most good. On the other hand the healthcare sector depends on the university for the supply of competent staff and novel care, diagnostics and treatments. The Stockholm County Council is Karolinska Institutet’s most important partner. In a healthcare sector that is being drastically reformed, we need to  work together to secure training of students and well-functioning research environments. And most importantly a good working climate for everyone.

Some of you promovendi will make contributions in the Life Science sector which has historically played an important role in Sweden and we hope it will continue to do so. In recent years, the Swedish government has highlighted Life Science as an important sector. It is our shared responsibility to make sure that this vital part of Swedish industry has a bright future ahead. Here Karolinska Institutet can, and will, contribute!

But of course, the common goal of improving people’s health needs to involve the whole society that we serve.

This year’s honorary doctors are role models of patient involvement, reaching out to the public and involving the world. As females you are also role models for generations of women.

The importance of you, our esteemed honorary doctors, receiving this recognition is obvious. It tells us that the common goal of improving people’s health needs to involve the whole society that we serve and that it does not cease at professional, regional or national borders.

It is not as a single isolated medical university, but only through cross-border collaboration, that we together can contribute to improving people’s health.

It is with the highest hopes that I wish you promovendi every success on whichever path you choose, and welcome you to join us in our future work together. It is with the greatest pride that I congratulate you once again.

I would also like to extend my warmest thanks to you, our honory doctors. Thank you for all you have achieved in the name of health, knowledge and service to society.

I wish you all a very rewarding evening.

Ceremony