Published: 28-05-2015 10:31 | Updated: 28-05-2015 10:39

With a passion for the unusual

Staffan Wahlin, senior physician and researcher at the Department of Medicine, has been appointed associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology. He conducts research on rare diseases, called porphyrias.

A patient meeting at the emergency department became decisive for Staffan Wahlin´s research career.

- I met a man there who had the rare disease Erythropoietic protoporphyria (EPP), which implies an extreme sensitivity to the sun. With this disease comes terrible pain when exposed to sunlight and sometimes the condition leads to severe liver damage, says Staffan Wahlin and continues:

- There was so much that was unknown about this disease that I chose to immerse myself in it. I wrote my dissertation about EPP and could eventually perform a unique treatment of the patient that I met.

The treatment consisted of a stem cell transplantation and after changing the bone marrow the patient was completely healthy.

- From having lived a life in the shade and indoors, this man now can be out in the sun, I recently received a message from him when he was on holidays in Gran Canaria, Staffan says with a smile.

Other diseases that Staffan is interested in are unusual combinations and intractable variants of autoimmune liver diseases, such as autoimmune hepatitis.

Why are you attracted to the unusual?

- Because it´s exciting and there is a great need for research here. I like to go my own way and not have to worry about getting ahead of other researchers with a publication, says Staffan.

But he misses research colleagues to turn to at times. Therefore, he, along with a Turkish colleague, has started up an international network about unusual combinations of liver diseases.

Staffan Wahlin´s watchwords, when it comes to research, are: passion, academic curiosity, cooperation and pragmatism.

- With pragmatism, I mean that you have to choose what is doable out of all the research ideas. I am a clinician with limited time and resources for research.

- So far, I have no time set aside for research in my employment, but the goal is to be a researcher at halftime. Maybe my new title as Associate Professor will facilitate networking and funding, says Staffan.

Loves his job

To give up working as a physician and clinician is no option for Staffan. He loves his job.

- It is difficult to say what is best with this profession. The old KI professor Carl-Gustav Groth should have said that "It's more fun to work than to have fun." For many, that certainly sounds deeply pathological, but I understand what he means, says Staffan and explains:

- My work gives identity, meaningfulness and passion. And sometimes the work can be even more fun than just having fun!

About Staffan Wahlin

Title: Senior Physician and Associate Professor

Family: Wife and three children

Lives: Älvsjö

Favorite places: Thailand and the summer house in Stockholm archipelago

Interests: Golf, reading: "I have a passion for Arabic literature at the moment."

Book on my bedside table: "Season of Migration to the North" by Tayeb Salih