Postponing heart failure and death for thousands of people

I feel good about the fact that our scientific research on trans-fat in foods has helped postpone heart failure- and death for thousands of people, says head of department and chief physician, Steen.

When my work really feels valuable

My main responsibility is, together with my approx. 70 colleagues in the department, to deliver correct and economic analytical answers to the 500-1000 patients who on a daily basis get blood samples taken in the hospital. The department has through many years worked systematically towards LEAN processes and work procedures in the laboratory. Currently, we have succeeded in delivering more than 90% of our analytical test answers in less than one hour after we received the sample in the laboratory. This is very satisfying, as it indicates that the collective patient treatment courses across departments are being optimized.

Research into health hazarding trans-saturated fat

Beside our daily efforts to optimize work procedures, I have had the possibility to research health hazarding trans-saturated-fats.  A couple years ago, this research resulted in, with me as main author, publishing an article in the New England Journal of Medicine. The article showed documented evidence of McDonald's and KFC in some countries used unnecessary large amounts of trans-fat in their food.

Article with widespread consequences

The consequences of the article were quite dramatic. "Gentofte Hospital, Trans-fat" went from a couple hundred Google hits, to having 28,000 hits within a week and two days after the article was published McDonald's stock went down 10 billion DKK.  A half year later, McDonalds and KFC announced that they would remove trans-fat from all their meals worldwide.

You become motivated when making such a difference

Amongst scientific researchers around the world, there is generally a well-reasoned suspicion that even small amounts of trans-fat can cause early heart failure. In Denmark, where trans-fat is more or less banned, we have in the last ten years seen a doubled reduction in heart failures, in contrast to Sweden, where trans-fat has not been banned. When the interplay between science, politics and business can make such a big difference, you become very motivated to provide and convey knowledge that can make the world a healthier place, and for me, this makes sense.   

Something many colleagues don't know about me

After high school, I traveled in the United States, Canada and Mexico as a professional gymnast on a Danish gymnastics team and I did back handsprings and somersaults. I was particularly good at handstands. Later on, when attending different gatherings, I have done handstands on top of chimneys or tables and chairs at Christmas dinners. Over time I settle with only tipping a chair onto the two rear legs and balancing for two minutes without any support.

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