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Pam Fredman

Pam Fredman is Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg and a major proponent of culture and health. According to Pam Fredman the research area belongs to the future – but it requires a long-term view and serious political effort.
– In order to spark high-quality research within an innovative field such as culture and health, patience is required. It is impossible to establish a new science area overnight if you have qualitative ambitions. In order to build up new cross-disciplinary structures, you need long-term organic work. It is by stimulating new meetings and collaboration between researchers from established disciplines that one lays a solid foundation.
– New subjects burgeon over time. Today, for example, gender studies and environmental science are givens, but not so long ago they were non-existent. In the case of environmental science, it was natural scientists and economists who built up a robust subject identity, incrementally and with engagement.

How do you view the future of culture and health as a research area?
– I perceive that there is great interest from politicians on a national level. Today there is not least a parliamentary committee for culture and health with representatives from the various parties. However, the area has not yet received full legitimacy, since it has been the subject of great effort. Culture and health is to a high degree a cross-disciplinary research area dependent on the possibility of seeking research grants across traditional subject boundaries. In short, this requires comprehensive and targeted research grants. If you advertise such research grants, you signal the importance of the area to the Swedish academic community.

But things are moving in the right direction?
– A lot has happened. Five or six years ago few of us had heard of culture and health, but today the issue is on the parliamentary agenda.
– Concurrently, the political community have to be clear about the necessity of new knowledge in the area. And one must also utilise research as a basis for decisions. It is not enough to attend meetings where one concludes "this is good". When push comes to shove, clear action is needed from parliamentarians and ministries alike.

Does the University of Gothenburg have a key role to play?
– Absolutely. At the University of Gothenburg all important comeptences within the research area are assembled, from medicine and other natural sciences to the humanities and everything in between. It is the result of our general pursuit to develop and profile ourselves as a diverse university. But even though we possess a multitude of competences, it does not mean that we should work alone. Nobody stands to gain from us attempting to rule supreme or keep knowledge to ourselves. We must constantly cooperate and discuss with other universities and various societal actors.

What function does the Centre for Culture and Health have in this context?
– The way I see it, the Centre is the node at the university which should drive the reasearch perspective forward. The Centre for Culture and Health is the glue that can unify various academic disciplines. Concurrently, it should stimulate innovative thinking, create contact between reasearchers and meetings that lead to future research projects. The Centre should coordinate and enthuse, in order to spark collaboration within the organization.

You have been engaged within the area during virtually your entire tenure as Vice-Chancellor?
– I come from the medical side and it has become apparent to me that there is so much to do. We will never be able to cure everybody, but culture and health is a perspective that directs attention towards overlooked human dimensions of health care. A concrete and personal example is my own mother who suffers from rheumatism. What is most important to her as a person are very mundane things that tend to fall outside the prevailing medical framework. She would like to be able to go out and eat among others, just like anybody, and quite simply feel a little bit grand. For her such things are an important part of life, even if she still has just as much pain.

Personal facts

Employment: Vice-Chancellor of the University of Gothenburg and professor of neurochemistry
Age: 63 years
Family: husband and three children
Research interests: anything that propels knowledge forward
Driving force: an optimistic view of the future
Leisure interests: outdoor life, cooking and reading books

[Interview by Daniel Brodén and published 2013-06-17]

Contact Information

Centre for Culture and Health

Box 200, 405 30 Gothenburg, Sweden

Page Manager: Lovisa Aijmer|Last update: 6/17/2013
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