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Curiosity and research

In her doctoral thesis she cites Winnie the Pooh who says: "Sometimes the more I think, the more there is no real answer." Curiosity is Mozhgan Dorkhan’s driving force and she is constantly looking for answers. "Learning gives me a real kick", she says, and she certainly has plenty of opportunities to learn, both in her work as a diabetes physician and as a scientist.

Mozhgan Dorkhan divides her working hours between the Department of Endocrinology at Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, 50 percent, and Lund University Diabetes Centre, 50 percent. "In reality, it’s more like 60 plus 60 percent, and a lot of nights on call", she says but doesn’t seem to mind the long working hours: "No, I really enjoy what I do. I switch between several different roles in a day, which I enjoy. The two jobs complement each other."

More individually tailored treatment

Mozhgan Dorkhan divides her working hours between the Department of Endocrinology at Skåne University Hospital in Malmö, 50 percent, and Lund University Diabetes Centre, 50 percent. "In reality, it’s more like 60 plus 60 percent, and a lot of nights on call", she says but doesn’t seem to mind the long working hours: "No, I really enjoy what I do. I switch between several different roles in a day, which I enjoy. The two jobs complement each other."

Identifyling patietns at risk

Part of Mozhgan Dorkhan’s thesis concerns the development of methods for identifying patients that will suffer uncommon treatment-related side effects and then choosing an alternative treatment option. Mozhgan Dorkhan also presents a new and simple method for measuring the amount of interference that affects insulin production and how strong insulin resistance in tissue is. "This is also very important when determining what treatment option to choose", she says and states that other diabetes physicians are becoming more interested in her work. "If I’m asked to sum up my research, I’d say that the common denominator is individualised treatment.

Diabetes  physician by chance

Part of Mozhgan Dorkhan’s thesis concerns the development of methods for identifying patients that will suffer uncommon treatment-related side effects and then choosing an alternative treatment option. Mozhgan Dorkhan also presents a new and simple method for measuring the amount of interference that affects insulin production and how strong insulin resistance in tissue is. "This is also very important when determining what treatment option to choose", she says and states that other diabetes physicians are becoming more interested in her work. "If I’m asked to sum up my research, I’d say that the common denominator is individualised treatment.

Top grades made medicin the natural choice

The fact that she became a physician was on the other hand not due to chance. It was a matter of course. "I had top grades in all subjects at school and everyone around me expected me to choose medicine. Luckily, that's exactly what I wanted as well", says Mozhgan Dorkhan who went to high school in the capital of Iran, Teheran.

Realising her dreams in peace and freedom

However, the road to a medical qualification was not as straight-forward as she and her family had thought. In 1979 there was a revolution in Iran, and the following year the war with Iraq erupted. "We hoped it would be over quickly. Fortunately we realised in time that that wasn’t the case. My family and I wanted to get out and made a big decision", she explains. In 1989 she arrived in Sweden with her father. It was another year before her mother and three younger siblings were able to join them and the whole family was reunited. "My parents sacrificed a lot in order for us children to have the opportunity to realise our dreams in peace and freedom", she says. The flight to Sweden meant that her medical training was postponed for three years. It took that long to learn Swedish and to gain the additional qualifications required for medical training. Mozhgan Dorkhan was the first in her family to become an academic. Her siblings have since followed in her footsteps.

Supportive family

"There’s so much I’d like to do, but there must also be time for the family, my husband and two children, for friends and for leisure activities. I’m proud that I’ve been able to combine work with family life and friends so far", says Mozhgan Dorkhan and gives her family a lot of the credit for her success. "It wouldn’t work if my parents weren’t there when we need them, and it definitely wouldn’t work without my husband who is very supportive in everyday life."

ANDIS illustrates how complex diabetes is

The ANDIS investigation that Mozhgan Dorkhan is involved in takes up most of her research time but the investigation is completely in line with the common denominator, i.e. more individualised treatment. ANDIS is short for "Alla Nya Diabetiker I Skåne" (all new diabetics in Skåne) and aims to map the whole spectra of diabetes diseases in an entire population.

"ANDIS has really illustrated how complex diabetes is. We’ve seen how different patients are", says Mozhgan Dorkhan, and as an example she mentions that it is impossible to classify about half of the patients as they don’t meet the usual criteria for diabetes type, instead they have a mix of the different types or fall somewhere in between classifications. Since a couple of years ago, Mozhgan Dorkhan is project manager and medically responsible for ANDIS. "I was asked and was of course flattered and said yes. Naturally, I’m also a little nervous about all the responsibility. It's a large undertaking that will continue for many years ahead."

andis

Better tailor-made treatment

The aim of ANDIS is to gather information on everybody, between one and one hundred years, who fall ill with diabetes in Skåne over the next five years. Upon registration of the patient, a few extra tests are carried out. Today ANDIS includes almost 3 000 patients. In total, the registry will hopefully include around 20 000 people. "We follow the patients and see how well different types of treatment work on different individuals, who suffers side effects, and who is at particularly high risk of complications, for example", says Mozhgan Dorkhan. "Owing to the more exact diagnoses that can be made based on the ANDIS tests, including genetic analyses, we are better equipped to tailor the treatment. ANDIS is unique. This is the first time mapping of this scale has been carried out, and I’m honoured that I’m able to contribute and run the study alongside other international scientists who are experts in this field", she continues.

Would rather not choose

Mozhgan Dorkhan hopes to not have to choose between being a physician and a scientist. She wants both. "They are so closely related. Questions that arise in my face-to-face meetings with patients I bring with me to my research. And, when all goes well, at some point the answers are fed back to the patients. I hope to be able to continue to combine clinic with research and to be a good link between these two worlds to bring them closer together", she concludes.

Text: Tord Ajanki/Camilla Franks

Link to the ANDIS website

andis.ludc.med.lu.se

Link to summary of Mozhgan Dorkhan’s thesis

Assessment and Treatment of Impaired Insulin- Secretion and Action in Type 2 Diabetes

lup.lub.lu.se/luur/download

 

Mozhgan Dorkhan

Mozhgan Dorkhan

Lund University Diabetes Centre, CRC, SUS Malmö, Entrance 72, House 91:12. SE-205 02 Malmö. Telephone: +46 40 39 10 00