Name: Kåre Mølbak
Background: Medical Doctor (1985), academic degree Doctor of Medical Sciences (2000)
Title: Director, State Epidemiologist
Organization: Department of Epidemiology, Statens Serum Institut, Denmark
Hobby: Music, reading, nature, practical work and gardening
What are your responsibilities at Statens Serum Institut?
I am the head of the Department of Epidemiology and have the overall responsibility for surveillance of infectious diseases as well as the other tasks including counselling, outbreak response, documentation, communication and training.
What motivated you to devote yourself to infectious disease epidemiology?
Early years in Africa to “save the world”. I realized that we need to use public health and epidemiology to target infectious diseases in an appropriate way. I also learned that often we lack evidence of what works and what does not work.
Which of your professional achievements brings you the most satisfaction?
When collaboration is successful. I cannot do much on my own, but I can try to foster a team spirit. Recent advances such as building of a national vaccine registry and a national microbiology database are really great advances for our national surveillance. Another example is the introduction of HPV vaccination in the Danish childhood vaccination programme. This has been a big success. I took part in the medical technology assessment that paved the way for the decision to implement vaccination and my department is monitoring the vaccine uptake. A lot of things went well in the management of the 2009 influenza pandemic and this was also satisfying.
What was your most difficult professional moment?
In 2008 when Denmark saw a massive outbreak of Salmonella Typhimurium of a specific type (U292). The exact source of this outbreak was never found, and this is a big frustration for me and for many of my co-workers.
What do you think are the most important achievements in infectious disease epidemiology so far?
Vaccines. And the systematic use of analytical epidemiology to understand infectious diseases and to control outbreaks – the John Snow approach.
How did you start collaborating in the EpiNorth project?
It came by itself when I became state epidemiologist and thus part of the family.
What do you find the most interesting aspect of the EpiNorth project?
Bringing people together. I wish I had more time to take part in the networking activities.
What do you consider the most important achievement of the EpiNorth project?
Linking professionals from the Scandinavian countries with colleagues from countries and areas around the Baltic sea.
What is your favourite book and why?
There is not a single book, and I really do enjoy reading. Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese is one of the more recent favourites. It describes two twins growing up in Ethiopia at a mission hospital. It has all dimensions of a great novel – drama, love, passion, action, politics, entertainment. Verghese is a medical doctor and this gives the book a certain twist. You’ll see if you read it….
Aside from your professional career, what is your greatest ambition in life?
To be a good husband and father: decent, honest, fair and compassionate. And to have fun as well, we cannot do without!
What would be your wishes for the younger colleagues in the field of epidemiology?
I think it is important to find a balance between high ambitions and the desire to take new initiatives on the one hand, and to finish work on the other hand. I have seen many young colleagues who have been good in starting projects but have had problems in finishing. I think it is also important to find a good balance between professional life and private life.