Scientist, innovator and registered dentist Mary Hägg has recently been awarded the title of Associate Professor in experimental ear, nose and throat diseases at Uppsala University. Her wide-ranging research centres on neuromuscular training and how it can be used to treat a range of conditions from hiatus hernia, reflux and sleep apnoea to speech and swallowing difficulties and facial paralysis after stroke.
What is an Associate Professor?
– An associate Professor indicates a scientific competence higher than a doctor’s exam: the highest academic examination. To apply for Associate Professor status requires several requirements to be met. As well as PhD status the candidate must demonstrate the necessary knowledge in the specialist subject area, experience in post-doctoral training of others and at least 15 internationally-published studies – of which a minimum of 11 must have been opposed and defended in a dissertation to a peer group. She or he must show independence in the research carried out and demonstrate collaboration with other universities. Associate Professor status confers the right to educate and mentor others at any level in a university.
What does this title mean for you, Mary?
– This means a lot to me, both as a researcher and as a person. It is a recognition that the scientific work that I have done is highly meaningful. That I have value. It also opens new doors: I can sit on grading boards, take part in dissertations as an opponent and peer-review articles written by others.
Tell us a little about your research that led to this promotion.
– In my work as a hospital dentist, I realised that we lacked an effective treatment for people that had a problem swallowing because of accident or sickness. I realised that the mouth acted like a super-fast broadband connection to the brain, and that the solution to the puzzle lie in neuromuscular training. I understood as well that there was a connection to the esophagus and all the way down to the stomach: a new area of research opened up for me.
– Today, we know that all these components work together – brain, nerves, esophagus and diaphragm – and that it is possible to treat the underlying cause of a range of problems thanks to my innovation: the neuromuscular training device IQoro.
What will you work on next?
– I shall continue to work on my current projects. A scientific study of treatments for sleep apnoea and snoring, where half the patients are being treated with IQoro and the others with a nasal strip. Also, a research project where reflux due to hiatus hernia is being treated in an intervention group with IQoro, and a control group with solely PPI medication.
– This summer I shall retire after 31 years’ work as head of department at the Speech and Swallowing Centre of the ENT facility in Hudiksvall hospital, and 11 years as a traditional dentist. Going forward I plan to work more with IQoro. I shall be lecturing Speech and Language Therapists in the UK and in Sweden.
Well done, Associate Professor Mary Hägg! And thank you for the interview.
Extract from the decision of the Uppsala University faculty board:
“Because the education and research are of value, and the scientific and pedagogical merits are sufficient, the docent committee recommends that Mary Hägg is adopted as Associate Professor in experimental ear nose and throat diseases at Uppsala University”.