Public Release: 

Honorary doctors, 2005

Karolinska Institutet

This year's honorary doctors at Karolinska Institutet are Nelson Mandela, Sir Richard Doll, Margaretha Wallenius-Kleberg and Professor Reijo Vihko. Honorary doctorates are conferred to individuals in recognition of their contribution to the educational, business or research activities conducted at the university.

An honorary doctorate has been awarded to
Nelson Mandela for his unique efforts in the fight against the global HIV/AIDS epidemic. He has helped to transform medical knowledge and the experiential know-how of the health services into affirmative action. Nelson Mandela has not only been a powerful voice in his home country, he has also influenced global opinion and government policy on one of the most feared infectious diseases of our time. South Africa, like many other countries around the world, has been severely hit by an explosive HIV/AIDS epidemic. For the past 20 years, Karolinska Institutet has been carrying out AIDS research in Africa, predominantly in Tanzania, and is currently conducting tests of an HIV vaccine, the next phase of which involves trials on patients. Karolinska Institutet and its researchers admire Nelson Mandela for his honesty and drive in identifying what needs to be done to curb the epidemic, in particular the care he has shown for those affected by the disease. This has not only helped to lift the stigma surrounding HIV and AIDS, it has also raised awareness about the action that needs to be taken to combat the disease, which continues to spread to this day.

An honorary doctorate in medicine has been awarded to
Sir Richard Doll, for his remarkable contribution to the development of epidemiological methods and research. Pivotal to his scientific work is his studies of tobacco smoking as a cause of disease and premature death. As one of the 20th Century's scientific giants of medical research he has been highly proactive in the improvement of global human health. His contributions to epidemiological research include descriptive studies of global incidences of cancer; ecological analyses of external factors in relation to cancer clusters in different populations; pioneering studies of ionised radiation and chemical health hazards at work; the world's first statistical analyses of carcinogenesis as a multi-stage process; and the detailed quantification of avoidable causes of cancer.

An honorary doctorate in medicine has been awarded to
Margaretha Wallenius-Kleberg, whose generous donation has enabled the building of a unique interventional unit at one of Sweden's largest highly specialised hospitals, Karolinska University Hospital. This unit will be a platform for multidisciplinary research and development regarding many of today's operative and interventional disciplines. The first stage of the creation of this new interventional unit involved the purchase of a surgical robot, which allowed surgeons and patients alike to benefit from this access to hypermodern medical technology. The robot has enabled surgeons at Karolinska Institutet to develop pioneering keyhole methods for surgical interventions on the prostate and the bladder, and is considerably less uncomfortable and distressing for the patient than existing techniques. Donations from Margaretha Wallenius-Kleberg have not just provided funding for the development of the healthcare and medical services and clinical research; she has also gone to great lengths to engage herself in the needs that exist in these fields.

An honorary doctorate in medicine has been awarded to
Professor Reijo Vihko, former Director General of the Academy of Finland (the Finnish Research Council organisation), for proving a powerful research policy voice in the Nordic region and internationally. As head of the Academy of Finland, he has made sure the organisation was rigorous in its setting up of clear strategic goals as well as in its scientific evaluation work and investments in elite research. Professor Vihko began his research career at Karolinska Institutet in the 1960s and has kept in close contact ever since with the university, where he has been its official examiner at several thesis defences. At the end of the 1960s he was appointed associate professor of chemistry, following this up soon afterwards with a specialisation in clinical chemistry. His research has touched on areas such as steroids in humans, steroid receptors, and the enzymes involved in steroid metabolism. Many of the body's hormones are built up of steroids. Between 1971 and 2004, he held a professorship in clinical chemistry at Uleåborg University, where he established one of the Nordic region's most advanced clinical chemistry laboratories. Professor Vihko has actively stimulated research cooperation in the Nordic region and his powerful presence in research policy has made itself manifest in his deep and important involvement in international research organisations, societies, scientific journals, associations and committees.

The honorary doctors will be receiving their doctoral insignia, cap, ring and degree at a conferment ceremony in Stockholm City Hall on 13 May 2005.

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Honorary Doctors at Karolinska Institutet
The first honorary doctorates in medicine and odontology were conferred at Karolinska Institutet in 1910 and 1949 respectively by the faculties of medicine and odontology. Since 1999, these honorary doctorates have been awarded by the Board of Research in its capacity as faculty board. Just over 260 honorary doctors have been conferred over the years (of whom 7 per cent have been women), a total of 58 since 1990, 22 of whom have been women.

Who can become an honorary doctor?
Academics, who have made important contributions, scientific or otherwise, to research at Karolinska Institutet, and people who have benefited research and development in ways other than through formal achievements. There are, however, certain conferment rules stipulating, for example, that those who are awarded a PhD in medicine from a Swedish university many not receive an honorary doctorate from another Swedish university; nor may the recipient of an honorary doctorate from a Swedish university be conferred the same honour at another Swedish university.

For more information, contact
Dean Jan Carlstedt-Duke, chairman of the Board of Research
Tel: +46-8 524 864 70, +46-70-792 40 85 (mobile)
Jan.carlstedt-duke@mednut.ki.se

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