From JU hallways to the frontline of Höglandssjukhuset

"My education taught me how to use scientific evidence to make real improvements; what I learned bridged the gap between research and better care."

Anne-Marie Suutari went from being a young doctor with a dream to improve patient care to becoming a prominent senior physician in internal medicine and cardiology. Her time at Jönköping University (JU), where she studied quality improvement and leadership in health and welfare, was crucial for her career. Now, she drives changes and leads quality improvement initiatives with the patients' best interests at heart. Here, Anne-Marie shares how her education shaped her career.

Tim Nilsson

Anne-Marie Suutari is a senior physician in internal medicine and cardiology at Höglandssjukhuset (the regional hospital in Eksjö). With her deep knowledge of quality improvement and healthcare leadership that she gained during her master's studies at JU, Anne-Marie has been instrumental in driving improvements in patient care at Höglandssjukhuset.

Anne-Marie balances her clinical role with actively engaging in local and regional quality improvement projects. As a part-time lecturer at University West, she shares her expertise and motivates the future healthcare leaders. Central to her approach is a steadfast belief that every improvement and innovation begins with a straightforward question: 'How can we make things better for our patients?

How did your education at JU prepare you for your career as a senior physician in cardiology and internal medicine?

As a young doctor in my residency, I wondered why medical evidence and research findings didn't always translate into 'real' improvements in patient care. This sparked my interest and motivated me to try to improve practices and care processes right where I was working.

In the fall of 2014, I had the chance to join a master's program in Quality Improvement and Leadership in Health and Welfare at JU's School of Health and Welfare. Through this program, I learned about practical tools and methods that showed me how to transform gatherings from the scientific research into real improvements for patients. To me, understanding how to make things better is the key to connecting research to top-notch healthcare. During my master's program, I was also introduced to the concept of co-creation. This means that patients, their families, and staff work together on improving care, all on equal terms. I use this approach daily when meeting patients or participating in quality improvement initiatives in healthcare.

Could you share some memorable experiences from your time at JU?

What I remember most from my time at JU are the connections I made with other students and teachers. It was rewarding to share experiences with others who were also passionate about constantly improving healthcare. Even today, we stay in touch and support each other in various ways.

What advice would you give to current students and alumni at JU who are interested in pursuing a career in quality improvement and leadership?

Be curious and try things out! Lean on your network for support! Working in quality improvement in healthcare is always about testing different approaches, learning from what works, and challenging the status quo. And don't forget to always keep the best interests of patients and their families at heart.

Which valuable lessons from JU have been most useful in your current role?

In my job as a doctor, involving patients and their families in care decisions, known as co-creation, has been incredibly useful. Leading quality improvement efforts in Region Jönköping county, I've leaned on the leadership skills and tools I learned at JU. During my studies, I gained valuable insights into leadership and the various tools and methods for improvements. Especially, leading my own project gave me the hands-on experience that I now use to make real-world improvements.

What does JU mean to you?

The master's program really laid the foundation for me and sparked my curiosity to pursue further research studies at the School of Health and Welfare. Getting to lead my own doctoral project and defending the dissertation is a huge milestone for me, both personally and professionally. My hope is to continue researching ways to make healthcare better, especially by working alongside patients and their families.

Where do you see JU in 30 years?

In 30 years, I think Jönköping University and the School of Health and Welfare will strengthen their position as a university focused on practical research, both nationally and on the international healthcare stage.