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Certain moments in life lead us to new paths. In autumn 2015 I was finally finishing my residency in pediatrics. I love my clinical work and had really enjoyed the journey. Meanwhile my husband had specialized in anesthesia, the family had grown, we had built a house, struggled with weekly on-calls - the usual business many of us junior physician couples go through. (Read more)

On that morning after a busy night shift in the neonatal intensive care unit I was having a coffee break with the professor of neonatology and we had a chat about my future plans. Since the very beginning of my medical studies I had envisioned myself as both a scientist and a clinician. I remember speaking this out first time in the interview for the MD/PhD programme. Soon after, I entered a fascinating PhD project on the molecular biology of the autoimmune syndrome APECED. I could have done a post-doc right after completing my PhD. At the time the arrangements would have been a million times less complicated. I had a good list of publications, was equipped with decent lab skills and my supervisors advised me to carry on with science career. Yet, I felt strongly that after prioritising science for so many years, it was time to emphasize my clinical work. So gradually, I found my way to pediatrics.

That particular autumn I was accepted to enter subspecialty training for pediatric pulmonology. I told the professor about my long-term dream to do a post-doc relevant to my own clinical field (at the same time realising I wasn’t particularly the typical post-doc candidate having spent my past years in the clinics). I mentioned I had recently learned about the possibilities of regenerative medicine for neonatal pulmonary diseases and that I was really fascinated about these advances in molecular medicine. My professor surprised me and told he was acquainted with a world-famous scientist and neonatologist on this field and if I was interested, he could speak for me and connect us. And eventually, so it happened.

And now in less than two week’s time, we will move to Ottawa, Canada. Step by step we have arranged funding and all the practicalities for the move. I will be working as a post-doc studying the stem cell therapies for neonatal lung diseases. I will also have a chance to observe the local pediatric pulmonology clinic located next to my research lab, which will be valuable to our small clinical team in Helsinki. My husband will be working in a subspecialty fellowship in the Ottawa Hospital and our kids will attend a Canadian public school and learn both English and French.


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Dreaming is the essence of humanity. Making my dream come to reality has been an unforgettable path to follow and many extraordinarily intelligent, successful and socially capable people have supported and helped me. The way I think about dreams, challenges and personal goals has changed. I have learned many practical things about connecting with people and speaking for myself. On top of this, I have found my way back to the lab at the Biomedicum Stem Cell Center, where I hope to establish my own pulmonary research project after returning from the post-doc.

With the words of Minna Canth: ”accept anything except for a sleepy, half-dead life”. Cease the moment, find your true motivation underneath the everyday-life. I will try to remember this and get the best out of the post-doc time.


Maria Hurskainen

Fellow in Pediatric Pulmonology, Specialist in Pediatrics, MD/PhD