Swedish Society for Medical Research

Medical research – as important today as in 1919

On Saturday the 18th of October 1919, a group of serious, determined representatives for Swedish medical research and for the business community were gathered in an attractive art deco building next to St Klara’s Church in downtown Stockholm. They were all concerned by the state of the Swedish medical research.

On one side: A Sweden plagued by contagious diseases like diphtheria and pneumonia, with thousands of victims, and  the hospitals often being overcrowded, combined with the lack of cure against many infectious diseases. The influenza pandemic known as Spanish flu was an unusually deadly influenza pandemic, that killed 50 million people all over the world. In Sweden it killed 38 000 people 1918 – 1920.

On the other side: A Sweden heavily affected by the depression in the aftermath of World War I. The medical academic education focused on the need for physicians and the medical research was given low priority.

Sjuksal, historisk bild spanska sjukan

That’s how SSMF was born

The founders of The Swedish Society for Medical Research were all distinguished representatives for Swedish medical research and for the business community.  Together with other private donors, corporations and institutions they managed to fund raise SEK 227,000 (the equivalent of SEK 3.9 million in today’s monetary value) for Swedish medical research. These funds, combined with all minor and major donations which have been received since then – in combination with the successful management of the money – have made it possible for SSMF  to support thousands of young medical researchers in Sweden.

Drawing of an old style three-story houseMedical progress in all areas

If the founders of the Swedish Society of Medical Research could see the world of today, they would hardly believe their eyes. Many of the once so feared infectious diseases have merely been extinguished in our part of the world, or can at least be treated or cured. The explanation is spelled medical research.

Behind better ways of informing about infectivity, preventive vaccinations, more effective antibiotics etc. lay tens of thousands of research hours. The same goes for our possibilities today to effectively treat and alleviate high blood pressure, diabetes and other chronical illnesses.

Only 50-60 years ago, textbooks in medicine described cancer as lethal – today the majority of cancer patients in Sweden are cured.
Or take a look at modern surgery, new anesthetic methods, improved intensive care, revolutionary antiseptics, and the possibility for replacement of organs – the basis of all these improvements are persistent medical researchers.

Researchers need all the support they can get

In one aspect the founders of SSMF would sadly see little change from when it all began. Governmental support for medical research does not meet the needs. A larger part of funds are granted to discoveries already made, and thus the need for the funding of new, basic research is growing. Fund-raising activities take away valuable time for the actual research, not least for the young researchers.

An important source of inspiration

SSMF is just a small catalyst in the gigantic universe of medical research – but an important one. Many researchers who began their careers as SSMF scholarship laureates have become world famous researchers with major scientific breakthroughs.

To be a SSMF-researcher is often a door opener to the world’s most prestigious research institutes, giving SSMF scholarship laureates the opportunity to pick up new knowledge, learn new techniques and widen their networks.