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Hogne Sandvik: General Practitioner, Bergen

In 1996 Hogne Sandvik was awarded the Ig Nobel Prize in biology for his rather peculiar scientific achievements. You may listen to a RealAudio recording of the Ig Nobel Prize Ceremony


Below I have given a brief summary of my main research interests. If you share my interest in any of these topics, why not send me a mail?


My main research effort has been devoted to the subject of female urinary incontinence (UI), a condition with severe economic and psychosocial impact. I have studied the epidemiology of UI in the general female population and the prevailing management of UI by Norwegian general practitioners (GPs). Those who are interested in more details, may take a look at this synopsis. The main conclusions that may be drawn from these studies are that UI is very prevalent among adult women, mostly in the form of stress incontinence. At least 6% may be regarded as potential patients. Although complicated by methodological difficulties, studies of GPs' management indicate that available therapeutic tools are not used to their full potential. A literature review demonstrates that the history is the most important diagnostic tool in general practice, and that the value of clinical investigations is poorly documented. In November 1995 I defended my doctoral thesis, and was asked to deliver a test lecture on the utility of research in general practice. After having finished my thesis, I have studied incontinence on the internet. I have also been involved in the EPINCONT Study.

In June 2001 Norway reformed its primary health services and introduced the Regular General Practitioner (RGP) Scheme. It is a contractual system based on listing and capitation. In 2005 I edited the evaluation report on this system. The report also includes an extensive English summary. Recently, I have been doing research at the National Centre for Emergency Primary Health Care, focusing mainly on RGPs participation in out-of-hours work.


The history of medicine is a subject that I find very fascinating. During the years 1982-90 I worked as a GP in a coastal district north of Bergen. I started digging into the local medical history of this area, and discovered a lot of interesting findings. I have provided some illustrated abstracts if you're interested. When the first doctors settled here during the 1850s, they had to fight hard against prejudices and superstitions. The local peasants preferred quacks, even witchdoctors, to the district physician. Bloodletting, however, was practised by both doctors and quacks. Most people could not understand why they had to pay a lot of money to the doctor when they could receive the same treatment by a local quack, almost without paying anything. Educated doctors claimed that only they would know how to perform bloodletting correctly, and tried to stop the unauthorized and dangerous practice of those less educated. Click on the picture for a closer look (32K).


I have been an active internet user since 1993. Early 1995 I began developing a web site for the Department of Public Health and Primay Health Care (University of Bergen). Since 1995 I have maintained the Primary Care Internet Guide, a comprehensive collection of links to useful health related web sites. I am list-owner of Eyr, the Norwegian mailing list for general practice. Take a look at an analysis of the comprehensive Eyr debate about the national general practice list system. For many years I was a member of the Informatics Working Party of WONCA, the world organization of family doctors. In 1997 I enjoyed being invited as keynote speaker at the 9th Computer Conference of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners. In 1999 I was instrumental in using the internet to organize doctors around the world in a public protest against WHO's new guidelines for the management of hypertension. Also in 1999 I published a study about health information and interaction on the internet, using the case history of a fictitious incontinent woman. In 2000 I developed an online course for the Norwegian Medical Association, teaching doctors how to search the internet for medical information.


For those who like satirical science I have included the abstract of a study I conducted together with my colleague Anders Baerheim (Sandvik H, Baerheim A. Does garlic protect against vampires? An experimental study. Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen 1994; 114: 3583-6).

Vampires are feared everywhere, but the Balkan region has been especially haunted. Garlic has been regarded as an effective prophylactic against vampires. We wanted to explore this alleged effect experimentally. Owing to the lack of vampires, we used leeches instead. In strictly standardized research surroundings, the leeches were to attach themselves to either a hand smeared with garlic or a clean hand. The garlic smeared hand was preferred in two out of three cases (95% confidence interval 50,4% to 80,4%). When they preferred the garlic the leeches used only 14,9 seconds to attach themselves, compared with 44,9 seconds when going to the non-garlic hand (p < 0,05). The traditional belief that garlic has prophylactic properties is probably wrong. The reverse may in fact be true. This study indicates that garlic possibly attracts vampires. Therefore, to avoid a Balkan-like development in Norway, restrictions on the use of garlic should be considered.



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Department of Public Health and Primary Health Care, last updated 16.06.08

Hogne.Sandvik@isf.uib.no