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Vice-Chancellor's speech at spring conferment ceremony 2017

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

It is a great honour to welcome you all to Karolinska Institutet’s spring 2017 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 to Stockholm.

I am also delighted to welcome our guests from both within our university and beyond.

Last May I stood here for the first time as acting vice-chancellor of our university to welcome doctors-to-be and all our guests. Then as now, I lookedout over an assembly filled with expectation and pride.

This will be my final conferment ceremony as acting vice-chancellor, and it feels equally fantastic to be here this evening as you, doctors-to-be, conclude many years of learning, research and hard work – just as I in turn come to the end of my vice-chancellorship.

You, promovendi, have produced new knowledge in the name of science that will benefit individuals and society, and your work contributes to our common goal of improving people’s health.

It is an end, but also a beginning.

I took over as vice-chancellor in February last year. It has been a turbulent time and has required hard work throughout Karolinska Institutet.

Hard work is particularly necessary when seas are stormy. But when the windsbegin to subside, we usually shift from doubt to insight, in that very direction. We can make mistakes, but we will not be satisfied until we have put things right.

It is also important to remember that reality can often be complex, that anyone who has made a mistake can come to new insights, and then it is never wrong to forgive. As a university we should maintain a willingness to reconcile with the past while at the same time acknowledge all the things that were done right.

What we can always carry with us when doubts arise is the knowledge of thefirm foundation on which we stand – the foundation that constitutes our university and our important contribution to society:

It is the educational programmes that term after term admit new students, givingthem a high-quality education and preparing them for a future career in life sciences and the health care sector, a sector where the demand for highly trained personnel remains very high.

It is the doctoral education that reinforces the scientific approach begun during students’ basic education – the ability to evaluate the true state of things.

And it is the research, whether it concerns new breakthroughs or all the small steps along the way, that ultimately results in valuable new knowledge and constant improvements that benefit health, medical care and society at large.

This is what a medical university is all about: improving people’s health in significant ways and contributing to science-based development. That – if anything – is more important than ever in our society today.

I think you, our new doctors, have all individually come in contact with this firm foundation, through your own studies and the work of those around you. It isabove all, your own ability to progress from doubt to enlightenment that has step by step taken you toward your doctoral degree.

As doctoral students you have gained insight into what it means when a discovery can benefit those who need it most.

Hans Rosling, who sadly passed away earlier this year, saw it. He told us about how, as a young doctor in northern Mozambique in the 1970s, he saw people around him becoming paralysed one after the other and how no one understood why. At first, he reacted like most people do in the face of an apparent threat – by withdrawing. Then he decided to make a difference. Hans Rosling discovered the previously unknown paralytic disease, konzo, which he also described in his doctoral thesis.

This kind of driving force leads us toward our goal, whether it be an academic degree or a medical advance based on newly acquired knowledge.

You, our new doctors, have reached your goals, and you have overcome many hurdles along the way. Research is about encountering hurdles, continuing despite one’s doubts, re-examining one’s hypotheses, and testing them again.

Also in our close collaboration with the Stockholm County Council, we see hurdles that we together need to overcome. The healthcare landscape in Stockholm is being transformed with significant implications for Karolinska Institutets education and research. A medical faculty and the healthcare sector are mutually dependent on each other. 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. Together we need to secure training of students, connection between education and research and well-functioning research environments in the future healthcare landscape. The path into the future healthcare landscape should be well planned, clear and transparent, ensuring continued provision ofhigh quality care, education and research.

However, Karolinska Institutets collaborations reach further than the healthcare sector and we constantly see clear examples of how cross-border collaboration, nationally and globally, can achieve great things. For example, when we appoint our honorary doctors.

This year’s Honorary Doctor, Francis L. Delmonico, is globally recognized as a pioneer and authority in the promotion of ethical organ donation and for his work to stop organ trade, transplant tourism and trafficking in human organ donors.

And the scientific work of this year’s Honorary Doctor, Margaret A. Liu, has yielded fundamental discoveries regarding the interplay between gene expression and immune responses, particularly important for vaccine and immunotherapeutic development.

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 does not cease at regional or national borders. It tells us that we should step back more often and examine who we are, how we are seen and what our common goals are. We should neither set ourselves above others, nor allow ourselves to sink into mediocracy.

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 and knowledge.

I wish you all a very rewarding evening.