Fulbright Reflections: Oppia ikä kaikki – The Finnish Version of “Live and Learn”

Written By: Nicole Brandt, PharmD, MBA, BCGP, FASCP, executive director of the Peter Lamy Center for Drug Therapy and Aging and professor of practice, sciences, and health outcomes research

This is the second post in a three-part weekly series focused on Dr. Brandt’s work in Finland. Read part one on “Expanding Collaborations in Finland to Improve Medication Use and Safety for Older Adults.”and part three on “Together Shaping the Future (#FulbrightFinland75).”

In Finland, this saying suggests you keep learning new things all your life through experience. As I complete week two of my Fulbright Fellowship in Finland, I can honestly admit that I have experienced and learned so much that I struggled to condense it into this second blog post. Despite the cold temperatures, limited daylight, and snow, the people here warm the heart and truly make Finland one of the happiest places to live.

Sirkka-Liisa Kivelä showing her artwork, including two hand carved wooden figures.Dr. Sirkka-Liisa Kivelä, professor emeritus at University of Turku and professor of geriatric pharmacotherapy at University of Helsinki, opened her home to faculty, students, and practitioners to gather ideas on how to increase collaboration to truly engage the older adult’s perspective on “what matters.” She’s pictured here sharing her artwork, which includes two hand carved wooden figures from Imatra, Finland. She has focused her research on epidemiological longitudinal studies on depression, falls, and the use of drugs and prevention of falls in the aged.

Myllypuro Senior Centre and Day Care Unit, led by Mari Saivanen, hosted our Aging in Place faculty meeting to establish a site for interprofessional learning, ideally starting in fall 2024 (see featured image).

I spent the weekend in Vaasa, Finland, visiting family, learning how to make Finnish pulla, interviewing our 86-year-old uncle about the role of community pharmacists and social services, and visiting the Finnish Centre for Client and Patient Safety.

  • Nicole Brandt and family holding a Finnish pulla.
  • Nicole Brandt having a meal with family.
  • Nicole Brandt on a visit to the Finnish Centre for Client and Patient Safety.

Throughout this second week, I visited a local community pharmacist who shared her workflow, provided a day full of seminars on age friendly efforts, deprescribing, and antipsychotic medication use in nursing homes, and lessons shared with global implications and collaboration.

An additional experience was meeting a visionary leader, Dr. Pirjo Laitinen-Parkkonen, medical director, director of research, development, and innovation, wellbeing services, County of Keski-Uusimaa, Finland. The vision is that Finland will be a model for client and patient safety in 2026 – eliminating all avoidable harm. Based on my experiences thus far, there are many strengths to make this attainable but it will take leveraging strong partnerships and relationships. I look forward to the continued opportunities to support and learn in these efforts.

  • Nicole Brandt visiting with a local community pharmacist in Finland.
  • Nicole Brandt with colleagues during seminars.
  • Nicole Brandt visiting with Pirjo Laitinen-Parkkonen

One Comment

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  • Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. What does impressed me most is not that life is easier in Finland, but that the people confront challenges directly. Whether it is healthcare, social services, education, national defense, energy, or any of the myriad of challenges that exist in every nation, Finns exhibit sisu.

    Knowing the leaders & colleagues on this journey (“The vision is that Finland will be a model for client and patient safety in 2026 – eliminating all avoidable harm.”), I am aware that initiatives begun even decades ago, and more recent ones (e.g.,the Keusote, & Wellbeing Counties) are converging.

    What an exciting time to be engaged in such important initiatives!

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