Professor of Plastic Surgery Virve Koljonen wins the J.V. Snellman Award

The University of Helsinki has granted this year’s J.V. Snellman Public Information Award to Professor Virve Koljonen. She communicates actively and intelligibly about her specialist field of plastic surgery on social media to both professionals and the general public.

Professor Virve Koljonen is a plastic surgeon at HUS Helsinki University Hospital. She also has a popular Instagram account, Plastiikkaope (‘Plastic surgery teacher’), where she posts videos on topics including common surgical procedures, such as suturing wounds and treating frostbite. In addition to their use as learning material and in everyday healthcare practice, her videos are a valuable source of assistance and information for laypeople. 

Koljonen received the award for her modern research communications based on scientifically accurate, inventive and fun videos. The popularity of her videos demonstrates their necessity.

She was also praised for setting an example to others by breaking new ground in popularising medicine. 

New perspectives on research knowledge

Koljonen says she created her account to share information on typical ailments treated by plastic surgeons, many of which are common reasons to seek medical attention. These include skin cancer concerns, acute and chronic wounds, scars and lifestyle factors associated with surgical diseases. 

The popularity of her videos has proved that people want to obtain information and understand medical issues affecting themselves or their family and friends.

“Videos are a good way to disseminate information, as plastic surgery is a visual field,” Koljonen notes.

She says that science communication and popularisation are needed now perhaps more than ever. 

“We scientific professionals have the opportunity to interpret research and make it understandable. I see it as a privilege. This is why it’s important to share research results and support the surrounding society in understanding and using them.” 

She believes knowledge increases understanding, inspires confidence in experts and facilitates collaboration. In medicine, general knowledge can support self-care and increase treatment adherence. 

“Fortunately, Finns are willing to listen to experts. If you can get people to, for example, check their moles and seek treatment in time, you are benefiting individuals and society in multiple ways,” Koljonen points out. 

Fuelled by feedback 

It may be difficult to reach people on social media with facts and a neutral tone. Koljonen says that feedback motivates her to continue popularising research and creating videos.

“I feel my videos and social media communication allow me to make a difference by helping and supporting the work of professionals or families in difficult situations.” 

She urges other experts too to go where people are, and where they are is social media. 

“It may feel overwhelming having to defend real knowledge against all the hogwash out there. But remember the butterfly effect: you only need to change the thinking of one person to make a big difference.

“I would like to thank everyone who has worked with me on Plastiikkaope: wound care and other nurses, physiotherapists, unit secretaries, domestic assistants, orderlies, my fellow plastic surgeons and colleagues in other fields. You have all shared your knowledge and expertise for the benefit of the wider community. Thank you!”


The University of Helsinki presents the annual J. V. Snellman Public Information Award to a member of the University community for outstanding efforts to disseminate scholarly knowledge. 

In the selection, special emphasis is given to activities that have significantly contributed to raising public awareness of the University’s scholarly work and key objectives. 

The award sum is €6,000. This year’s award will be presented at the University’s annual celebration on 26 March 2024.