Q: Any stand-out mentors along your path?
Prof. Kaarniranta: I am very lucky, as I have met and had the privilege to work with several great and outstanding researchers during my career… If I ought to name someone, then Antero Salminen, Professor Emeritus, UEF.
Q: That sounds like a brilliant experience to have! What did he do that has been influential to you?
Prof. Kaarniranta: He taught me how to look at studies, papers, research, etc. with a critical eye. How to evaluate them and look for bias, intentional or unintentional. It is a skill that has served me very well both in my clinical practice and my scientific work. Although Antero is now close to his 70s, we still actively cooperate together. I am really proud of that.
Q: Which area of science or medicine would you most like to know more about?
Prof. Kaarniranta: I wish I understood medical statistics better (yes, way better).
Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Prof. Kaarniranta: First and foremost, to me personally, it’s my wife and children, as they always support my, sometimes hectic, academic lifestyle. It’s thanks to them that I can still hang on there after 25 years of hard work, having their continuous support. In my professional life, I’d say that it’s the fact that we could implement the “Kuopio model”. Our team at UEF and our top-notch collaborators around the globe, are all united by shared commitment to new scientific discovery related to AMD. We seek to uncover and answer key questions in basic and preclinical research, allowing us to find novel therapies and cures for AMD. Our wish is to connect talented young scientists with world-class leaders in AMD research and thereby promote discoveries that impact AMD care in the future, for the benefit of all.
Q: What is your most marked characteristic?
Prof. Kaarniranta: You should ask around… (laughs) Calmness, I guess.
Q: What is it that you most dislike in your area of medicine and science in general?
Prof. Kaarniranta: Bloated egos.
Q: You are only 53 yet have achieved so much. Any advice to the readers?
Prof. Kaarniranta: I think that it’s important to support young people, to ask them to challenge themselves, and never pretend that you know everything. The young people are the future and their questions always cause new styles of thinking to emerge. Dare to always question things. So, to get back to your question, I am lucky to have always been surrounded by smart and motivated young people.
Q: The second to last question is always a “magic wand” question: An unknown investor gave you 10 million euros without restrictions to foster European vision research efforts. How would you invest the money?
Prof. Kaarniranta: I would open a competitive call for ten ambitious young researchers to carry out novel, high-risk pan-European collaborative projects on AMD.
Q: Looking ahead, where do you see yourself in 10-15 years from now?
Prof. Kaarniranta: Gosh, I don’t know! (Smiles.) I wish to spend more and more time in the nature, so maybe I’ll be at our cottage more often with my beloved ones. More than just the few times per year we can do now, anyways.
Thank you very much to Professor Kai Kaarniranta for chatting with us today.
Photo on top of page: Professor Kaarniranta and his AMD research group.
For more on Kai Kaarniranta’s research and his AMD research group, please go to https://uefconnect.uef.fi/en/group/kaarniranta-amd-lab/