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Published: 2022-10-19

I believe in team thinking and collaboration

PROFILE From dreams of becoming an archaeologist and veterinarian, interest in natural science took over and led the way into medical school. In the spring of 2022, Hanna Nyström took her docentship in surgery, a merit that creates new opportunities in the academic world. A world where collaboration has proven to be the key to success.

Text: Heléne Andersson

Congratulations on your docentur! How does it feel and what does it mean to you
-Thanks! In fact, it doesn't feel any different. I'm glad the long application went through. It's fun, and an academic merit that you become qualified academically in the rest of Sweden. You also get to sit on the grading board, so that's important. It is a seal of quality when you apply for funds from the major donors.

Hanna Nyström, senior lecturer and now docent, says that as a child she had completely different plans than what actually turned out. As a child, she was fascinated by archaeology and would definitely become an archaeologist. But the dream of becoming the next Indiana Jones was exchanged for a new dream; to become a veterinarian. 
- I grew up on a farm, and have always been interested in animals. So for many years, between I was 11 and 16, I was completely determined to become a veterinarian, Hanna says. 
She liked both animals and medicine and interned with a veterinarian in Skellefteå. The interest in medicine and science was great, and although no one in the family works in healthcare, there was a pull there. But what that really meant, she didn't know until she was there. 
- The care, working with people and the medical part. Science has been the driving force behind this, she says.

In the current situation, you have to come to terms with your driving forces

Hanna has found the driving force in her work by coming to terms with herself, finding out what it is that drives her forward, not making a career. 
- In the current situation, you have to come to terms with your driving forces, Hanna says. 
For her, it has been about having both the research and the clinical work, getting to do research on those she operates on and making it fit together. 
- To do the best you can for your patient, based on what we know, put the puzzle together and seek answers. Finding new ways to improve, she explains. 

The driving force towards the research
Clear is that the research goes hand in hand with the clinical work for Hanna. But what really attracted you to the research? 
- We were told during the training that we were bad at choosing the research. But it was abstract, you didn't understand what research projects were about, Hanna explains.  
During semester 7 of the surgeon's position, a colleague wanted to get Hanna involved in a research project. Although she was hesitant, there was little interest there. When the question came from Professor Peter Naredi if she wanted to start researching for him, the answer was yes. During semester 8, Hanna did a simple clinical registry research, and got a taste for more. 
- Peter was good at inspiring, she says. 

These important people made it possible

As the taste for more research led to more research, she felt that she did not want to do research on clinical data, but more towards labs. There she was paired with Malin Sund and steered towards innovative lab research on liver metastases.

- Malin Sund has been a very important role model for me, says Hanna, who today sees Malin as both a mentor and a good friend.

The research continued, largely thanks to Oskar Hemmingsson and Daniel Öhlund making a similar journey at the same time. Despite the fact that Norrland University Hospital is a small hospital in comparison, we have a surgeon's clinic with a high proportion of surgeons with phDs, something that has been very important for Hanna's journey.

- We've kind of walked by each other's sides all and raised employees from below. There is a big gain that we are several PI's running our research lab, and that we share the infrastructure. All of us have defended our thesis and made an international postdoc. These important people have made it possible. It is extremely important and a success factor, says Hanna, who could not have done it alone.

Hanna is currently researching and working with cancer that is spreading. They are trying to find new ways to detect the disease through biomarker research in blood samples. If you remove a piece, you can see in the micro-cabinet that it is growing and find a plant pattern.

"We want to find a way to classify the pattern before we operate," Hanna says.

The research is translational, with everything from gene expression, X-rays to blood tests.

"It takes a lot of collaboration with a lot of other talented people," Hanna says.

Challenges at work require priorities
All professions have their challenges and the biggest right now, Hanna says, is the health care crisis.

- Right now, I'm coloured by the crisis in Swedish healthcare. I think that's hard and it's a huge challenge.

- Such a large part of the work is about putting out fires and not what you are trained and best at. It's draining, she explains.

Furthermore, she believes that it is a huge challenge to meet patients and not be able to give information about surgery, or when you are in a position where everyone wants you to do everything. Then it is important to be able to prioritize.

- You have to have some strategies to get any balance, both for the region and the university, Hanna says.

To establish that balance, you have to find a solvable equation somewhere, hanna explains, who believes that it must go together in the end.

- I believe in thinking in teams and collaborating. Use each other and not have rivalry. Sound values and a sensible work environment, she explains.

Future plans
This autumn, a dissertation awaits one of Hanna's own doctoral students, Moa Lindgren. Other doctoral students are also in the process of completing the large projects with Scilab where they have researched the expressed genome of liver metastases. New exciting results await, as well as that she writes on several articles. The idea is to then move forward in that project. In addition to

the research, Hanna teaches a part in semester 7 at the Medical Program and in Disaster Medicine, a course that is within the IKK program. She also retains the clinical part and works with patients in healthcare.

In ten years, Hanna believes that she will probably still be clinically active as a surgeon, with a clear academic goal.

- The goal is to be an inspiring professor/surgeon, probably at some university in Sweden, Hanna says.