The Alumna of the Year 2017 docent of oncology Päivi Hietanen

The Faculty of Medicine's Alumna of the Year 2017 is psychotherapist Päivi Hietanen, docent of oncology. The selection was announced at the Faculty’s annual celebration on 25 January 2017.

Docent Päivi Hietanen is also known as the long-term medical editor of the Finnish Medical Journal.

 “I believe it is important that we prominently uphold the ethical values of our profession. I also hope to serve as an example for young doctors in this respect. Being appointed Alumna of the Year is an expression of the respect my colleagues have for my career, and that makes me happy,” she says.

Hietanen studied at the University of Helsinki, and specialised in cancer and radiation therapy. After completing her doctorate in medicine, Hietanen’s passion for the ethical issues of the medical profession and her enthusiasm for supporting others led her to a further specialisation in individual psychotherapy. Since 2000, Hietanen has served as a docent of oncology at the University of Helsinki.

Practicing the medical profession has kept Päivi Hietanen firmly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area. For approximately 20 years, she worked as an oncologist at the Helsinki University Central Hospital’s Department of Oncology. This period in her career has a special significance in that Hietanen was one of the founders of Finland’s first unit for psychosocial support in conjunction with a cancer clinic.

 “As a young doctor I discovered that the psychological burden and its effects associated with serious illness were being neglected. The ability to see patients as fellow humans is a basic ability that supports the treatment process. Listening to the patient and explaining the situation clearly can have a profound impact on the overall experience of the patient and the course of the treatment process. As the medical profession enjoys a significant degree of esteem, doctors are in an important position to maintain the ethical principles of medicine and equality in healthcare, and to defend those who need it.”

The significance of science and universities to society and social development has been a prominent topic during the past few years. During her career, Hietanen has been able to prove that it is possible to combine work as a doctor with support for a broader understanding of social justice.

She is known as an active participant in many organisations, e.g., the Cancer Society of Finland. She is also a sought-after lecturer and teacher both in Finland and abroad. She has served in several multidisciplinary research groups focusing on topics such as the psychosocial aspects of cancer or the interaction between doctor and patient. Her acclaim outside her profession has only been strengthened by her work as the medical editor at the Finnish Medical Journal since 2003.

 “In our era of technological development, we must remember the human core of medicine. The significance of our work grows through cooperation and genuine help for our patients. I believe that medical students at the specialisation stage should also be supported in field-specific patient interaction. Every patient deserves to be seen as a human in an individual set of circumstances, not just as a disease. In this, our profession is pivotal.”