What are your research topics?
As a plastic surgeon, I am broadly interested in the impact of the surgical treatments we carry out. In my research, I try to combine two seemingly opposite perspectives, those of the patient and of society. In addition to clinical research, I conduct basic research on rare skin cancers.
Where and how does the topic of your research have an impact?
The image of plastic surgery conveyed by the media does not correspond to what the field encompasses in public healthcare. Plastic surgery does not focus on a limited anatomical region. Rather, we repair and reconstruct tissue defects and restore functionality throughout the body. This may make it difficult to perceive everything we are doing.
My research questions arise from the clinical work of plastic surgeons. Consequently, they are matters of great relevance to the patient and patient care to which there are, as yet, no answers. For instance, young women with massive weight loss following bariatric surgery asked me at my office whether a surgical procedure to fix skin folds in the abdominal region is safe in case they still want to have children. I seized on the topic, and together with my research group we demonstrated that pregnancies are normal and safe for the foetus after corrective surgeries carried out because of weight loss.
What is particularly inspiring in your field right now?
New solutions in health technology are rapidly adopted in surgery, also in my field. Precision medicine and its application in the field of plastic surgery is another trend. Emerging trends should not be accepted uncritically, with faith in the pitches of the people marketing them. We need research-based knowledge on what really benefits patients and is societally effective. It is important that we who meet the patients, carry out surgeries, and bear the responsibility, also conduct research that can then be utilised in decision-making.
Virve Koljonen is Professor of Plastic Surgery at the Faculty of Medicine.