‘I met my ‘unsung heroes’ at GE Healthcare in Umeå’

Swedish Institute (SI) scholar Olga Yakimenko reflects on her trip to Umeå Biotech Incubator and GE Healthcare and explains why the people she met are science's 'unsung heroes'.

'I met my 'unsung heroes' at GE Healthcare in Umeå'

Thanks to the support of Swedish Institute, NFGL members who have a keen interest in health innovation and technology had the incredible chance to visit Umeå Biotech Incubator and GE Healthcare in Umeå, the capital of Västerbotten County, on 20th April 2018. As one of the lucky participants, I wanted to share my reflections on this day with you.

To start with, I’d like to say that progression of science and technology has always fascinated me and generated my interest in innovative ways to solve modern problems. What is important, I believe, is health research and technologies that represent rapidly emerging fields with growing importance on an ageing population as the cost of therapies increase. That’s why attending this event was an obvious choice for me from the day SI shared the calendar of events with us.

My morning on 20th April started with an incredible feeling of something inexplicable and promising. And this is not for no reason, because today we will visit Umeå Biotech Incubator and GE Healthcare as a part of NFGL event: Health and Innovation.

Umeå Biotech Incubator

Our adventure started with visiting Umeå Biotech Incubator (UBI), which is one of the best known and successful incubators in Sweden and Europe. We had a guided tour over lab spaces and facilities equipped for research in molecular biology, chemistry and other related disciplines. On our way, we were told about how UBI embraces leadership in biotech which I found the most important when it comes to business and innovation.  

For me, leadership is a lot about being a good teacher. And a good teacher is not someone who gives you all the answers, but one who provides you with options and gives you an opportunity to learn from your own experience and sometimes mistakes.

Let me tell you one story of the lesson I learned from my supervisor as an undergrad in biotechnology and in the wet lab settings, but I can see how well it applies to all other environments.

I was new to the lab, where we were studying Parkinson's disease, and I needed to learn a complex animal surgery that was part of the research project. After showing me all the steps and giving me a detailed explanation, my supervisor allowed me to do the surgery myself.

And while he was providing guidance he was very careful and never interrupted or stopped me when I didn't perform steps perfectly. He let me find my own way around the procedure while making sure I didn't make any crucial mistakes.

After several trials, I was confident about how to perform the surgery. And I also came up with some suggestions, how we can improve certain steps to do them faster. This principle is used in UBI to help promising projects through sharing, education and support. By letting people learn through their own experience is a way to help them get creative and innovate.

GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences

After having lunch accompanied by an inspirational chat with UBI stuff we were on our way to GE Healthcare Bio-Sciences factory.

Being known all over the world, GE Healthcare’s broad expertise in medical imaging and information technologies, medical diagnostics, patient monitoring systems, drug discovery, biopharmaceutical manufacturing technologies, performance improvement and performance solutions services helps their customers to deliver better care to more people around the world at a lower cost. In addition, they collaborate with healthcare leaders, striving to leverage the global policy change necessary to implement a successful shift to sustainable healthcare systems.

GE’s factory in Umeå specializes in bioprocess solutions and provides tools for biopharma manufacturing. During our visit, we had guided tour of several lines of manufacturing processes.

Once I happened to work in Bioprocess Engineering lab in Luleå University of Technology and was really surprised to see all the equipment I used being produced here. I realized I met my 'unsung heroes' who helped me and thousands of scientists all over the world by creating better solutions for industrial technologies. It's not surprising that scientists and manufacturers all over the world trust GE’s products resulting in 90 percent of global insulin produced with their equipment.

The experiences I obtained that day made me realize how important the need of nothing less than game-changing breakthroughs to improve health, reduce costs and change the way healthcare is delivered and performed.

Through participation in the Health and Innovation event in Umeå, I was lucky to challenge my background cooperating with highly qualified global professionals and enrich knowledge that will act as a stepping-stone to my future studies through which I aim to contribute in revolutionizing the field.



Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

Ronoh Philip, who is studying for his masters degree in Infectious Disease Control at Södertörn University, explains why he thinks the Swedish concept of 'lagom' is the best way to achieve good social health.

Lagom: The best way to achieve social health?

During my one week orientation program on August 2019 at Södertörn University, we were presented with many aspects of Swedish culture and practices. One of the new aspects that I learnt was the “lagom culture”, As I quote one of the presenters about applying lagom to our studies, he said: ”Lagom will reduce your stressful burdens of hectic lecture schedules and ensure that you spend equal time of working and socializing in the university.”

So being a student with a background in public health and society, I got interested and searched for the deeper meaning of lagom, and how it can  apply to society and health. I found out that it is a Swedish way of life, it is a concept which means not too much and not too little, just enough. I learnt that it came from a Viking tradition laget om which means 'around the group' and was allegedly used to describe just how much mead or soup one should drink when passing the bowl around in the group.

If this concept is applied to achieve social health goals, it would really fit well. So, what is social health at first? Social health is how you interact with other people and adapt in different situations, it deals with how people in society deal with each other. It is important to note that there is a close link between good social health and improvement of the other aspects of human health, this can lead to the achievement of SDG goal of good health and wellbeing. It also leads to self-satisfaction and happiness; no wonder Sweden is ranked as one the happiest countries in the world. It is ranked 7th in 2019, according to world happiness report. I believe lagom has a big role in this achievement.

In the country where I come from, Kenya, one of the greatest challenges we face in our society, is the ability for people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds to interact and form positive and cohesive relationships with each other. From my perspective, when I finish my studies and return, lagom will be worth implementing in the workplace, the place where I live and the society as whole, as it is the best way of finding simple, attainable solutions to our everyday worries like stress, eating better, having downtime and achieving happiness. It’s a balance of work and life, so everything is in sustainable existence with each other.

My goal during my entire university studies at Södertörn, will be to learn more about the lagom principle and also be able to apply it on our SI NFGL Local Network platform, because it is surely one of the best ways to achieve a good  work-life balance, reaching consensus with my colleagues and adapting a team minded approach in dealing with issues in an organization and the society.