At the end of February, Anne Pitkäranta, the Dean of Education at the Faculty of Medicine, is off to pastures new. While she’s at it, she intends to change the world.
Professor Pitkäranta is going to establish a faculty of medicine at Qatar University. Qatar is in urgent need of doctors, which is why Qatar University recruited Pitkäranta as dean of education and Danish cardiologist Egon Toftin as dean to build a faculty of medicine from scratch.
The faculty should be ready to welcome its first students next autumn.
All students in one space
“Until now, Qatar University has had separate campuses for men and women, but we will teach all students in one space,” Pitkäranta says. She believes that the best way to make a difference is to show an example through her own work.
“I conducted research in Angola ten years ago. There I learned that one person can do what he or she can, and that it makes a difference. Without that experience, I might have not had the courage to take this leap into the unknown.”
Pitkäranta deleted the first emails she received from the American recruitment company, thinking they were spam, but later she became interested. Pitkäranta sent out documents and diplomas, made Skype calls and finally flew to Doha for an interview with a panel of twenty experts. Ultimately the process moved very quickly.
Pitkäranta concluded a one-year agreement with an option for a two-year extension. She took a leave of absence from the University of Helsinki and the Hospital district of Helsinki and Uusimaa, where she holds the position of head physician.
During the past few years, Pitkäranta has worked on reforming the curriculum of the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Helsinki. Many times she has said that she would like to start with a clean slate, without 375 years of tradition. Now she has the opportunity to do just that.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. What other country would let me plan medical education from scratch in this day and age?”
Anne Pitkäranta admits that she knows nothing about Islamic culture. Her first order of business is to educate herself.
“I’ll have to consider my environment; I can’t just walk all over other people's religious sensibilities. But the basics of medicine are still the same everywhere in the world.”
While visiting the women’s campus, Pitkäranta noticed that female students use veils that completely cover their faces. In her view, this is incompatible with medical studies.
“This will probably be my first conflict, but I can’t back down. You can’t treat patients and hide your face,” Pitkäranta says.
She has already been issued instructions on appropriate attire. She must cover her shoulders and ankles, but foreign nationals are excused from wearing the veil.
A quotation by Professor Pitkäranta was deleted from the text and the sub-heading related to it changed on the request of the interviewee on March 4th 2015.