New Silvia Doctors ensure better dementia care around the world

[PRESS RELEASE 12 May 2016] Dementia is one of the most serious and widespread diseases of our time and poses an enormous challenge for medicine. The second cohort of so-called “Silvia Doctors” is now graduating, half of whom this year are active abroad. The training programme, a collaboration between the Swedish medical university Karolinska Institutet and the Silviahemmet Foundation, enables doctors to change dementia care for a growing group of patients.

The degree ceremony is to take place on 17 May in connection with the Silviahemmet’s 20th anniversary, with the new Silvia Doctors receiving their diploma and and Silviahemmet Foundation certificates from the hand of Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden.

The two-year master’s programme in dementia care has been completed by the doctors in tandem with their clinical work. It is held in the form of a distance professional development course that they follow at their existing workplaces, which allows them to put what they learn into immediate practice. What sets this master’s course apart is that it appeals not only to all doctors – especially those in primary care – working with dementia, but also to specialists in geriatrics, psychiatry, neurology, internal medicine and emergency medicine. Six doctors are graduating from the Silvia programme this year, three of whom work in Sweden, one in Luxemburg, one in Germany and one in Japan.

“This program has offered me the opportunity to study with colleagues from different countries, to gain new scientific insights, to deepen relevant knowledge for daily practice about dementia and demetia care,” says Ursula Sottong, physician at the Malteser Deutschland organisation in Germany, and one of the Silvia Doctors. “It has been especially interesting and beneficial for me and for my organisation to discuss patient cases. During the coming years we will profit from this experience.”

Dementia is caused by damage – pathological or physical – to nerve cells and synapses. Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and best known of the dementia diseases. The part of the brain affected depends on the kind of dementia disease, which can therefore take on different manifestations during the early phases of development. While there is currently no cure, palliative therapy is available and with professional care and a competent demeanour, doctors can more easily meet their patients’ needs and enhance their quality of life.

“Dementia is a huge global problem and the medical profession in Sweden and abroad needs to understand more about the disease and its treatment,” says Maria Eriksdotter, head of Karolinska Institutet’s Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, which organises the course, and member of the Silviahemmet board. “The course is therefore held in English and Silviahemmet and Karolinska Institutet also run a master’s course for occupational therapists and physiotherapists. One of the main objectives of the course is to encourage research into dementia by strengthening the ties to the latest scientific findings.”

Participating at the diploma ceremony will be H.M. Queen Silvia, minister for the elderly Åsa Regnér, the director of Silviahemmet Wilhelmina Hoffman and stand-in vice-chancellor at Karolinska Institutet Karin Dahlman-Wright, who will also give a speech.

“Dementia care is incredibly complex,” says Dr Hoffman, who is also a geriatrician. “It takes efficient and skilled teamwork during every phase of the disease. We therefore need doctors who are fully equipped to take care of these patients, the number of whom is growing steadily both in Sweden and globally. There are an estimated 47 million people with dementia around the world, a number that is expected to rise to 131 million by 2050. This makes it a global challenge. For the past decade and more, we at Silviahemmet have also been training medical professionals from other countries, so it’s really nice to see that three of the six doctors now receiving their master’s in dementia care from Karolinska Institutet and being decorated by Silviahemmet come from abroad.”

A photographer will be present at the award ceremony. Photographs can be ordered from Karolinska Institutet by mailing

For further information, please contact:

Ursula Sottong
Silvia Doctor at the Malteser Deutschland organization, Germany
+49 151 12122118 

Maria Eriksdotter
Head of Department, professor
Department of Neurobiology, Care Sciences and Society, Karolinska Institutet
+46 8 524 864 79, +46 70 647 89 07 

Wilhelmina Hoffman
Rector at Silviahemmet Foundation
+46 8 759 00 71, +46 70 764 46 26 

Ylva Olsson
Project Manager, Executive and Professional Education, Karolinska Institutet
+46 8 524 860 36, +46 70 727 62 91 

Sabina Bossi
Press Contact, Karolinska Institutet, +46 8 524 860 66, +46 70 614 60 66

Karolinska Institutet is one of the world's leading medical universities. Its vision is to significantly contribute to the improvement of human health. Karolinska Institutet accounts for over 40 per cent of the medical academic research conducted in Sweden and offers the country´s broadest range of education in medicine and health sciences. The Nobel Assembly at Karolinska Institutet selects the Nobel laureates in Physiology or Medicine.