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International training develops researcher skills and networks to benefit research


Researchers in the medical and health care field who receive postdoctoral training abroad have succeeded very well in their careers. This is demonstrated by the impact report of the Academy of Finland’s Research Council for Health. The report is entitled “Strategic funding for enhanced research impact? Three examples from the field of health research” and is part of the Academy’s SIGHT2006 publications describing the state, level and impact of Finnish scientific research.

An international training period serves to increase a researcher’s scientific and science policy competence, strengthens skills related to project leadership and administration, and creates networks that benefit Finnish research. In addition to researchers, an international training period also produces other health research experts.

Following her dissertation, paediatric cardiologist Jaana Pihkala took part in a researcher exchange in Toronto from 1997 to 1999. At that time, Finland did not have a paediatric cardiologist specialised in so-called interventional cardiology, which involves treating heart problems without surgery. Toronto hosts one of the world’s leading units in this field, the Hospital for Sick Children, and Pihkala wanted to perform postdoctoral studies there. At first, she determined aortic function in laboratory animals. During the second year, she performed clinical work and was involved in projects that developed new methods for treating congenital heart problems.

“After returning to Finland, I’ve been working as a paediatric cardiologist in the Department of Cardiology at the Hospital for Children and Adolescents. I’m responsible for the catheter laboratory and intervention cathetering, which has allowed me to implement many new treatment methods that I learned in Toronto in addition to further developing activities at the catheter lab. Thus, my research and study period abroad has benefited the whole clinic and children suffering from heart problems,” explains Pihkala.

The Academy of Finland provided the primary funding for her entire stay abroad and, according to Pihkala, was a key factor in the success of the whole project.

Leena Vahakyla | alfa
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