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Rektors välkomsttal vid installationshögtiden 2017

Dear new professors, awardees and medalists, dear colleagues and guests

Let me welcome you to Karolinska Institutet’s 2017 installation ceremony.

It is a great honour to stand here today as the vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institutet, one of the world’s leading medical universities.

Tonight we will honour those of you who are taking on a new role as professor. We will honour those of you who have made prize-winning efforts to foster the advancement of education and research. And we will honour those of you who have been awarded the Grand Silver Medal for important contributions to Karolinska Institutet.

Only two weeks ago I myself was installed as vice-chancellor in this very room. I know the anticipation and excitement. I know how such a ceremony invigorates, exhilarates and motivates. And I think I understand what you feel as you recognize – perhaps with some trepidation – the high expectations that are now placed on you, as you embark on a new stage in your career at a world leading institution.

It is an enormous privilege to serve as a professor at Karolinska Institutet. The privilege resides first and foremost in the opportunities that are now open to you. I am talking about the opportunities to realize the very vision of our university: to make a significant contribution to the improvement of human health. This vision is realized through excellent education and mentoring, and by public outreach. This vision is realized through basic research, on molecules and cells, by providing new insight and breakthroughs in our understanding of health and disease. The vision is realized through frontier clinical and epidemiological research. And last but not least, the vision is realized when new technologies and new insight from frontier research are translated into better prevention, diagnosis and therapy – into a better health care for our fellow citizens.

Medicine is, after all, first and foremost about human beings. Through seamless interaction with our collaborative partners, including Stockholm County, the Karolinska University Hospital and other hospitals and health care providers in the Stockholm region, we are uniquely positioned to translate new insight into better prevention and care. With new buildings and infrastructure, excellent biobanks and health registries, and through close collaboration with other universities nearby, I see few if any places in the world that surpass Sweden and the Stockholm region when it comes to the prospects for improving health and the human condition. We must embrace these opportunities. We must be inspired by them. And we must take pride in the results we deliver.

And delivered KI has, repeatedly and importantly, over more than 200 years. Just a few days ago – on October 8 – we celebrated the anniversary of the first implantation of a pacemaker in a human heart. This pioneering event was carried out in 1958 at the Karolinska Hospital by Åke Senning, then affiliated with Karolinska Institutet. The pacemaker had been developed by another Swede, Rune Elmqvist, of Lund University.

This is just one example of how Karolinska Institutet and Swedish research have paved the way for new procedures and new technologies that have benefitted humankind and the world at large.

For this is what must be the ambition of a world leading university: we shall serve Stockholm County, we shall serve the Swedish population, but we shall also serve the world at large. Our vision – to significantly contribute to the improvement of human health – knows no geographical boundaries.

This is also why Karolinska Institutet must strengthen its position in the global health arena. We should stand out as a driving force for a just and fair distribution of health services – not only in our own region but worldwide. The glaring inequities in health that we see in the world today – but also in our own country – are not sustainable. Such inequities feed tensions, distrust and social unrest. Research is needed to identify the root causes of health inequities and to provide an evidence base for wise political decisions. My vision is that Karolinska Institutet will take center stage in this endeavor.

Dear colleagues, dear professors and prize winners.

Karolinska Institutet is not only a research institute – it is a full-fledged university where education and research shall cross-fertilize and synergize. Our international standing depends on our achievements in higher education and is sensitive to the status we attach to our educational programmes. I am sure that all of you will inspire and lead the next generation of students and researchers, who, in turn, will one day celebrate our academic ceremonies in the same way we are doing here tonight. Education and mentorship must be at the core of any modern and forward looking university.

Karolinska Institutet has 200 years of history. It is a history of triumphs but also a history of setbacks – with the recent crisis standing out as the most serious one. Now is the time to look ahead, to grasp new opportunities with creativity and enthusiasm, but also with all the wisdom that we can derive from the crisis that now lies behind us. My vision is that Karolinska Institutet should take the lead in discussing the limits of medicine and in debating the dilemmas and hazards of frontier medical research. The ethical preparedness that we so sorely need cannot be fostered by new regulations and increased bureaucracy, but can be instilled only by critical reflection and by due adherence to extant rules. Let us together shape a work culture where ethical dilemmas are seen as a welcome opportunity for debate and reflection and where the wisdom that we have gained is seen as a strength on which our future should build. Central to this wisdom is Primum non nocere – first do no harm.

Since assuming the position as rector on August 1, I have received numerous delegations from foreign governments and institutions. I have experienced how they respect the KI brand and how they hold our research and education in high esteem. Our visibility and impact on the international arena open great opportunities and also instil in us a strong sense of responsibility.

Now is the time to look ahead. And as we do so, we are happy to do it with you, dear new professors, academic awardees and medallists.

Once again – a warm welcome to you all!