Faculty of Medicine

Health through a sustainability lens

110 PhD-candidates from all the Nordic countries gathered in Bergen to focus on “sustainability in health”. They learned that sustainability reaches far beyond the subject of climate change.

Holda Anagho, ailan Phan and Arnhild Nygård smiling
PhD-candidates Holda Anagho, Ailan Phan and Arnhild Nygård were three of 110 participants at the NorDoc-conference in Bergen.
Ingrid Hagerup
Panel debate Panel debate participants sitting at a green table. PhD. Candidate Anand Bhopal is holding the microfon and saying something
Panel debate with Professor Vladimir Kendrovski, PhD Anand Bhopal, Professor Karsten Juhl Jørgensen and Professor Kristine Bærøe.
Ingrid Hagerup
Group photo - participants standing in the stairs at Studentsenteret
Group photo of the participants of the conference.
Ingrid Hagerup
Stefan Hjørleifsson talking
Associate Professor Stefan Hjørleifsson
Ingrid Hagerup
Arnhild Nygård presenting her poster to Holda Anagho
Arnhild Nygård presenting her poster presentation of the project "Strong and steady" (Sterk and stødig) to Holda Anagho
Ingrid Hagerup
Karsten Juhl Jørgensen presenting his lecture from the podio
Professor and Acting Director of the Nordic Cochrane Centre, Denmark, Karsten Juhl Jørgensen presenting his lecture “What is the evidence of impact of sustainability on health?”
Ingrid Hagerup

Main content

"When we think about "sustainability in health" we often relate it to how the climate changes affect our health, but it’s much more than that", says Vice Dean of Doctoral Education at the Faculty of Medicine, Martha Enger.

"We need to get "on point" as researchers on how we use our resources. Are we limiting waste by asking the right questions, for example working in interdisciplinary perspective, precise diagnostics and treating the right patients?” she asks rhetorically.

For about a year she has been working on arranging a conference for PhD-candidates in the Nordic Countries that are part of the NorDoc-initiative. The conference that was arranged in Bergen 17.- 18. June was the first in Bergen and the first non-digital one since the start of the pandemic. It was preceded by the fully digital Bergen Research summer school, 7.-17. June that was focused on understanding and addressing inequality.

The program for the conference ranged from lecture from the WHO-representative Vladimir Kendrovski, who talked about inequality in health resources and the carbon emissions from health industries worldwide, Dr. Karsten Juul Jørgensen (Cochrane Sustainable Health) who talked about evidence-based medicine and how over treatment affects the workload of the health facilities, Professor Camilla Stoltenberg (The Norwegian Public Health Institute), to Professor Kristine Bærøe (UiB, Bergen Center for Ethics and Priority) who discussed the ethical challenges. The later program also included panel debates, works shops and poster presentations. (Download the program from this link: NorDoc conference)

Are we using the resources the right way?

PhD-candidate Arnhild Nygård from NTNU is one of the participants of the conference. Her project "Sterk and stødig" (Strong and Steady) is about the use of volunteers to increase elderly’s physical activity. It fits the subject of "sustainability in health" as a glove.

As the population grow older, it gets increasingly important to make sure that we use the resources available, to meet the future, unlimited demands in health care, she explains:

"It’s about increasing the knowledge how to use the available resources in the best ways".

One of her co-participants, Holda Anagho, is from University of Copenhagen, and a PhD in biology. The morning sessions also made her reflect on her work on the lab:

"In my field of proteomics, it’s also very much about using the emerging technologies. It might be that a newly developed equipment makes it possible to identify, for example, hundred more proteins in fewer samples. As well as discussing whether it’s necessary, we need to reflect on whether we are using our resources the right way", she says.

New ideas and reflections on sustainability in health

"The social, economic and environmental resources are increasingly limited in all fields of clinical practice and health science, how we prioritize and the ethical-legal dilemmas and potential inequities that may arise must be considered hand in hand", Enger underlines.

She thinks that it’s about time that we think about sustainability and health in a broader context. As an education institution, Faculty of Medicine, must raise the collective consciousness for responsible research and innovation in our next generation scientists and healthcare workers. The conference is a contribution in this regard:

"My hope is that the participating PhD-candidates bring home new reflections on the sustainability of their own choices and work habits as researchers. Are they working interdisciplinary, using optimal research technology and methods to get the most of their data? Are they asking the questions that are relevant for the society?", she asks. 

The best poster presentation was awarded at the end of the conference. The winners were:

  1. Subam Kathet from University of Helsinki. Title: 3D window screens to create window double screen traps for mosquito control.
  2. Marwan Othman from the University of Copenhagen. Title: Automated pupillometry to detect cognitive motor dissociation after acute brain injury.
  3. Po-Cheng Tang from Uppsala University. Title: CombiANTTM: antibiotic interaction testing made easy