Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry Jouko Lönnqvist is the Faculty of Medicine’s Alumnus of the Year 2020

Jouko Lönnqvist, a psychiatrist and professor, continues to work as a consultant on the development of organisations and management as well as an emeritus professor at the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare.

Professor Emeritus of Psychiatry Jouko Lönnqvist is the Faculty of Medicine’s Alumnus of the Year 2020. The selection was announced at the anniversary celebration of the Faculty on 29 January 2020.

The University of Helsinki’s Faculty of Medicine has awarded the recognition of Alumnus or Alumna of the Year since 2011. Alumni of the University of Helsinki, who have engaged in socially significant work through which they have promoted the public engagement of the disciplines of the Faculty of Medicine, are eligible to be nominated for this award.

The Alumnus of the Year 2020 is psychiatrist and Professor Jouko Lönnqvist. He continues to work as an emeritus professor of the University of Helsinki and the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare. In addition, Lönnqvist has worked for over 40 years as a consultant on the development of organisations and management and continues to work with senior corporate leadership.

Lönnqvist got his first experience of the Faculty of Medicine in 1962, when he started his studies in medicine. During his long career he, for example, has supervised 40 doctoral theses and acted as an opponent on almost 20 occasions. As evidenced by Lönnqvist’s reaction, it is possible to surprise even a long-term social influencer.

- I was genuinely surprised and happy. On a few occasions, I’ve personally had a chance to surprise someone with corresponding positive news, and I’m aware of the power of surprise. I understand that it is my duty to serve others. When I think about this personally, I consider it important to keep looking forward and towards continuity.

The Faculty’s Alumnus of the Year 2020, Jouko Lönnqvist, emphasises that it is important for the Faculty to recognise students’ current needs as well as future challenges. Cooperation with the Alumnus of the Year and, more extensively, the alumni network, supports the Faculty, while its policies and bold profile-building provide a foundation for cooperation.


Jouko Lönnqvist’s interest in people’s coping in professional life is clearly evident in his diverse career, during which he has studied severe mental health problems experienced by Finns, such as depression, suicide and schizophrenia. In 2011 he was awarded the Nordic Public Health Prize on the grounds of his pioneering work in research on the causes, spread and prevention of mental disorders. The grounds for the prize state that mental illness is one of the major threats to public health. This area of research has been highlighted also in social discourse and shows that the work undertaken by Professor Emeritus Jouko Lönnqvist has continued to focus on core issues.

Lönnqvist’s career has been described as exceptionally important, and it includes over 500 scholarly articles on the epidemiology and biological background of mental disorders, which have provided a pioneering and development-oriented contribution to these fields. Lönnqvist’s activities related to the prevention of suicides are, both nationally and internationally, not only socially considered to be significant but also are highly regarded by his colleagues as well as the general public. He has actively participated in numerous foundations and as an expert advisor in, for example, committees of the Council of Europe and the World Health Organization.

During his long and varied career Lönnqvist has managed to include organisational development and related management training in his activities and, as a consequence, is also well-known outside his profession as a psychiatrist. It is said that he is often invited to act as a mediator in difficult issues hindering work community activities, and his management guidebooks are well-known to many. Lönnqvist highlights the significance of systemic thinking he learnt at the Faculty, which is not just well-suited for analysing humans holistically but also for understanding the functioning of organisations and society.

- As a psychiatrist and a group psychoanalyst, I have also learnt to understand how groups of people work and how important function management is. Management is the glue that enables specialisation and the division of labour while also maintaining an awareness of shared objectives.

Lönnqvist sees the university as a typical expert organisation, where the challenge is to find the balance between individual potential and aspirations and shared goals. According to him, the strength of the Faculty of Medicine lies in its scientific foundation. Only pursuit of new knowledge creates opportunities for new applications. Increasing trust in the power of learning and the creation of preconditions for cooperation and continuity of operations also offer at their best a significant collaboration channel with the alumni network. Professor Emeritus Jouko Lönnqvist crystallises the core of cooperation (as follows):

- Regardless of their duties, everyone should have a feeling that they belong to a great team.