Alum of the Year Leena Niemistö: “Student wellbeing and high-quality teaching must be safeguarded"

Leena Niemistö, the Faculty of Medicine’s Alum of the Year in 2023 and an influential operator in the healthcare sector, encourages the University to take care of students’ coping and high-quality clinical instruction.

Leena Niemistö, the Alum of the Year 2023 at the Faculty of Medicine, has carved out an impressive career. She is a specialist in physical and rehabilitation medicine, Doctor of Medical Science, a professional board member and a major cultural player. She has headed the medical centres Dextra and Pihlajalinna, and serves as an angel investor in several growth businesses. But what does she think success is?

“Each individual has their own definition for success and succeeding. For me, success is above all a balance between family, work and friends. It’s about achieving the goals set for me, the courage to go down a path of your own and the willingness to put yourself on the line. Success always comes from doing things together, and it also requires a lot of luck,” Niemistö says.

An alum with an emotional connection to the University

Leena Niemistö began her studies at the Faculty of Medicine, University of Helsinki, in 1983. It also meant a move from Rauma to Helsinki for the recent general upper secondary school graduate.

“Getting to study Medicine at the University of Helsinki was my dream and goal as an adolescent. The University provided me with extensive competencies for professional life and a belief in my capabilities. Furthermore, I made lifelong friends and colleagues. The University also taught me to retrieve and interpret information, which is extremely important in these times of disinformation.”

For the sixth year, Niemistö is serving on the Advisory Board of the University of Helsinki Alumni Association, where a three-year stint as chair has just ended.

“I’m extremely proud to be an alum of the University of Helsinki and its Faculty of Medicine. My years in alum activities have expanded my networks in the direction of the alums of other faculties and deepened my knowledge of the University of Helsinki as a whole. All the while, my emotional connection to the University has intensified. I definitely recommend getting involved in alum activities!”

Those in need of support must be identified

What does the future of medical education at the University of Helsinki look like through the eyes of a veteran healthcare professional?

“I believe the future is bright, but I’m of course worried about whether there are enough funds for high-quality education. Teaching in doctors’ practical skills and clinical instruction will be as vital in the future as now – they form the core of medical studies,” Niemistö says.

Niemistö is also concerned about the mental health problems of young students.

“We must safeguard the mental, physical and social wellbeing of our students for them to cope and succeed in both the challenges of professional life and their personal lives. This requires a range of interventions from the University and the Finnish Student Health Service alike. For example, a screening toolkit is needed to identify students in need of support.”

The Faculty of Medicine's Alumni of the Year
  • Leena Niemistö 2023
  • Juha Tuominen 2022
  • Jouko Lönnqvist 2020
  • Marjukka Mäkelä 2019
  • Anu Kantele 2018
  • Päivi Hietanen 2017
  • Anu Wartiovaara 2016
  • Jukka Meurman 2015
  • Tari Haahtela 2014
  • Sirpa Asko-Seljavaara 2013
  • Heikki Peltola 2012
  • Krister Höckerstedt 2011
  • Archiater Risto Pelkonen was invited to be an honorary alumnus on 29 October 2011.