Bioethics drew the US Ambassador to visit Tampere

Submitted on Fri, 05/27/2016 - 11:23

“Yesterday, I got a Tappara scarf and now a university tie. I am really stylish,” joked the Ambassador of the United States to Finland Charles C. Adams Jr. From the left Researcher Salla Saxén, Professor Tapio Visakorpi, Professor G. Steven Bova, Ambassador Charles C. Adams Jr, Vice rector Seppo Parkkila, Professor Matti Nykter, Professor Teuvo Tammela and Bioethics researcher Heikki Saxén.

What kind of reputation does Finland have as a country of higher education and research from the perspective of the United States?

”Fantastic. I have said that Finland is envied by the whole planet when it comes to the education system and advanced research,” says the Ambassador of the United States to Finland Charles C. Adams Jr.

“There are several indicators to back this up: the PISA scores and lists of publications having Finnish people in the lead. It is a remarkable achievement considering the small population of the country. I believe that the equal education system is a big reason for this.”

Adams visited the Prostate Cancer Research Center at the University of Tampere. The Translational Prostate Cancer Research Program led by Professor Tapio Visakorpi started at the beginning of the 1990s and is now one of the world’s biggest research programs in the field. The multidisciplinary research center is looking for new ways to identify dangerous forms of prostate cancer from those that do not require treatment. The center is also involved in drug development.

Adams regards the Prostate Cancer Research Center as a great example of international research collaboration.

“The United States’ embassy is interested in promoting research collaboration in all fields of science and development. The Fulbright program is one example of this, but there are many more,” Adams says.
Finland provides a unique setting for large-scale clinical research. As much as 95 per cent of all cancer patients are treated in the public sector, making it easy for researchers to reach them.

“There are extensive medical records, and people view research positively,” says Tapio Visakorpi.

During the short visit, Ambassador Adams was shown around the University of Tampere and the Kauppi campus. Vice Rector Seppo Parkkila told him about the Tampere3 higher education cooperation and that the new university will be the second largest in Finland with its 34,000 students.

Ambassador Adams was interested in hearing how the University views the tuition fees that will be charged of students who come from outside the EU/EAA region.

”Unfortunately the law requires us to collect tuition fees,” says Parkkila.

”However, we are developing a scholarship system that will hopefully cover as much of the costs as possible. Most foreign students will probably have to pay either very little or nothing.”

Bioethics is a branch of science researching the ethical questions of medicine and bioscience, which has landed in Finland from the United States. Heikki and Salla Saxén are currently doing bioethical research at the University of Tampere. Their bioethics research project is a part of the prostate cancer research.

Ethical questions are especially related to personalised medicine, which is also being developed in prostate cancer research. Previously, all patients were treated in almost exactly the same manner, but the personalised treatments raise the question of how to ensure the patients’ equality when their treatments vary.

“The new bioethical thinking is increasingly becoming a part of medical practice in the United States. This branch of science is still fairly new in Finland, but we look towards the United States in the hopes of getting new ideas,” says Saxén.

Saxén spent a year at the University of Harvard as a Fulbright scholar, and Ambassador Adams came to the University invited by Saxén.

Text: Tiina Lankinen
Photograph: Jonne Renvall
Translation: Mariia Haatanen