Professor Vesa V. Kataja is the Chief Medical Director at Central Finland Health Care District in Jyväskylä since March 2014. He is also Associate Professor of Clinical Oncology at the Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Medicine, University of Eastern Finland (UEF), Kuopio, Finland.
Prof. Kataja studied in Wales, Canada, and Finland and received his physician’s license in 1985. He acquired the state qualification as Specialist in Medical Oncology and Radiotherapy in 1993. Following this, he was employed by the Sandoz Clinical Development Centre Ltd in Frimley, United Kingdom, as a Medical Adviser in Oncology.
From 1995 to 2006, he acted as the Deputy Head Physician at the Department of Oncology, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland, and as Consulting Clinical Oncologist in two hospitals.
He then worked as Head of the Department of Oncology and Medical Director of the Conservative Clinics at Vaasa Central Hospital, Finland, until Dec 2010. From Jan 2011 to Feb 2014, he acted as the Professor (fixed period) of Clinical Oncology at the University of Eastern Finland and the Head of Cancer Center at Kuopio University hospital, Kuopio, Finland.
Professor Kataja’s basic research interest has been in the field of breast cancer genetics; however, his clinical research focuses on genitourinary tumors.
Professor Kataja has authored/co-authored 200 peer reviewed and PubMed – Cited articles, and chapters in three text books. Professor Kataja has tutored six MD/PhD theses, and four are currently ongoing. He is an ad hoc reviewer for several oncology journals, including Acta Oncolociga, Annals of Oncology, Cancer Treatment Reviews, Clinical Cancer Research, Int J Cancer and Eur J Cancer.
He is a member of many professional societies, scientific boards and working groups nationally and internationally. He has been an active member of ESMO for 20 years as National Representative, member and subject editor of the Guidelines Working Group, Spotlights Editor, and as member of the Publishing Working Group.
Q: What did you want to be when you grew up?
A: Definitely a physician! This was very early on my dream.
Q: Who is/was your role model?
A: In youth, my dad. Later, in medical school, professor of surgery Esko Alhava who insisted honesty and always best for the patient:“It is not difficult to teach you to operate on a patient. More challenging is to teach you when not to operate.”
Q: Tell us about a meaningful moment in your career
A: Defending my thesis. After four hours of questioning the opponent eventually stopped and gave up!
(Read more about the Finnish PhD defense here and here)
Q: If someone asked you to suggest a book to read, what would you recommend?
A: The Tin Drum (German: Die Blechtrommel) by Gunter Grass.A gruesomely witty story of a boy who is disappointed with the dull and hypocritical adult world and decides not to grow anymore.
Q: What do you like to do in your down time?
A: To read all kind of non-professional literature; history, novels, fiction.
Q: What is your favourite cuisine?
A: I eat everything – providing it does not bite back! But if I have to choose: Italian
Q: What is your favourite place in the world?
A: Our summer house located on an island.
Q: Who would you most like to thank, and why?
A: My wife and our children for keeping my feet on the ground!
Q: What are three things you would change in medicine?
A: 1. more time for each patient in medical practice
2. more emphasis on seeing the human instead of the disease. Science and empathy are not contradicting!
3. less medicalization in medicine
Q: How do you want people to remember you?
A: As a friend