Chapter 7

Healthy Exchange



Last week the university held a very interesting biomedical research conference attended by experts and by Heikki, a young doctor specialised in transplants whom I met.

Spain is well known for her health system, which is among the best in the world, not only on account of the network of hospitals but also of the country’s specialised centres and the standard of primary care. Do you remember that one of the first things that Hakon said when we met was how impressed he was by our health system during his stay in Spain?

Last week, I met Heikki, a young doctor specialized in transplants with whom I share impressions about the well known Spanish National Health System.

Spanish health professionals are an international reference point for their high qualifications and skills in the design of management systems. Furthermore, our country has a solid research and medical innovation system that makes us a model in the technological sector of health. In fact, the area of transplants is one of the most outstanding, which triggered my conversation with Heikki.

The Spanish National Transplant Organization was founded in 1989 and is the first European organization structured under the direct control of the government through its health department.

01_POSTS_#07_02Spain has been a leading country in the field of organ donation and transplants for twenty-three years and Heikki was interested in getting to know the Spanish model, as the European Union and the European Council recommend its partial or total implementation in the other member countries. I told her that our system is based on a wide network of hospital coordinators specialised in identifying potential donors and trained for dealing personally with families. In fact, Heikki declared that being leaders in organ donation for so many years proves our solidarity, for all donations are altruistic.

To date, the National Transplant Organisation — ONT for its initials in Spanish — has transplanted 90,000 organs, 300,000 tissues and almost 50,000 bone marrows and umbilical cord blood, and is considered one of the most important collaborating centres by the WHO~World Health Organization.

Spain has been a leading country in the field of organ donation and transplants for more than twenty-three years, what proves our solidarity, for all donations are altruistic.

In 2013, UNESCO added the Mediterranean diet to the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity of Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Morocco, Portugal and Spain.

01_POSTS_#07_03At the end of the day, Heikki expressed her gratitude by inviting me to out to a place she said I’d love. And she was right … she took me to a restaurant serving Spanish tapas! We ate potato omelette, Spanish cured ham, croquettes, casseroles … My taste buds couldn’t believe it! I thanked her for her gesture, and I took advantage of the occasion to boast a little, and tell her that the oldest restaurant in the world is in Madrid, Casa Botín, that opened in 1725 and has remained open ever since — a must for visitors to the city — and that the Mediterranean Diet has been added to the list of UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage as it involves a set of skills, knowledge, rituals, symbols and traditions concerning crops, harvesting, fishing, conservation, processing, cooking, and the sharing and consumption of food.

There was still time that evening for a little more medical discussion. We talked about Spain being one of the most important countries in the world in the fields of agro-biotechnology, biochemistry and molecular biology. Moreover, our pharmaceutical industry plays a decisive role boosting R&D and is pioneering in the development of innovative medicines to fight cancer, malaria, Alzheimer and HIV.

Spanish pharmaceutical industry is pioneering in the development of innovative medicines to fight cancer, malaria, Alzheimer and HIV.

This week I’ve been completely immersed in health sciences and I must say that I’ve enjoyed it tremendously … Will this be the path I’ll end up following?

01_POSTS_#07_notebookIf your interest has aroused as much as mine and you want to explore in greater depth ‘What about the Spanish National Health System and biomedical research,’ I offer you to have a first look at my notebook — it was an enormous help through my conversation with Heikki!