Published: 22-07-2015 10:00 | Updated: 22-07-2015 10:06

Turning the spotlight on education

They created headlines last February when their art collection fetched 130 million kronor. Now KI alumni Gunnar Höglund and Anna-Stina Malmborg explain why they are donating some of the money to their KI foundation, and why it’s so important to research into educational methods.

Moderna Museet and Karolinska Institutet are to receive a generous donation from the couple after their valuable collection went under the hammer at Sotheby’s in London. For KI’s part, the recipient is the increasingly capital-strong Gunnar Höglund and Anna‑Stina Malmborg foundation, which funds the Karolinska Institutet prize for medical education research.

“We’re doing it because we believe that education’s important,” says Dr Höglund. “Our intention is to direct attention onto research in this field.”

Art has always been a big interest of theirs, and they have been building their collection since the 1960s. But now that they have served their purpose, the couple want to use the money for something else.

That their KI foundation has received an injection of 12 million kronor guarantees that it will continue to be able to award a prize that is large enough to attract international attention. The prize of almost 50,000 euro – almost half a million kronor – goes to researchers who conduct high-quality research in the field of medical education.

“Education is fundamental when it comes to everything from basic subject knowledge to skills and attitudes, including how to interact with patients,” says Dr Höglund. “It shapes us – and is researchable too.”

Since training to be doctors at Karolinska Institutet, the couple can see that pedagogical development has made great strides forwards. Drs Malmborg and Höglund was part of the ’68-wave, when academics threw all education into dispute, not least students of education such as them.

For their entire professional lives, they taught in their respective fields. Anna-Stina worked as a teacher and researcher in bacteriology, and Gunnar worked as a senior lecturer in physiology; he later became a professor at the National Institute for Working Life while variously engaged in pedagogical development at KI.

“Education is one of the primary missions of the university, but is often somewhat neglected; research is a bit sexier,” says Dr Höglund.

One possible explanation for this is that the people who are made professors are highly qualified in their field of research – but not necessarily in teaching. The fact that research generates new knowledge while education recycles existing knowledge maybe cannot be ignored either, they reason. Moreover, patients and administration must often come first.

“We use very few resources to develop education. There is no other area within medicine that is not evidence based.”

And this is where the foundation’s prize comes in. It was established in 2001 to reward research that has the potential to deliver long-lasting improvements to the education and training of all healthcare professionals. Seven researchers have won the prize to date for their work on medical education.

Ultimately, it’s a matter of producing more skilled practitioners and improving the care they provide.

“Not much financial support goes into this, which is why we want to do this,” says Dr Höglund.

Text: Madeleine Svärd Huss

Photo: Gustav Mårtensson

Read more: Karolinska Institutet Prize for Research in Medical Education