The purpose of the Distinguished Service Award, given by European Society for Paediatric Gastroenterology Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN) annually is “to recognize an individual who has given a major contribution to the development of pediatric gastroenterology, hepatology or nutrition. It can be recognized as a whole life accomplishment, or celebrate a major recent achievement.”
Criteria for selection include outstanding scientific achievements related to pediatric gastroenterology and/or hepatology, and/or nutrition, usually documented by the candidate's publication and citation record; outstanding contributions to the standards, practice and training in the fields of pediatric gastroenterology and/or hepatology and/or nutrition; outstanding contributions to ESPGHAN as a society; and personal integrity.
This year award goes to Professor Markku Mäki.
Professor Markku Mäki has dedicated most of his career to research to educate and treat coeliac disease (CD) and many researchers, including us, followed his pivotal publications. Professor Markku Mäki is an Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics at the Faculty of Medicine and Life Sciences, at the University of Tampere, Finland.
Although he retired from his position as Chief Physician at the Department of Pediatrics, at the Tampere University Hospital, Markku continues to be involved in cutting edge coeliac research while directing clinical drug trials in CD at the Hospital.
Markku received his MD at the University of Turku, Finland in 1973, and moved to Tampere in 1975 where he did his pediatrics and pediatric gastroenterology training. Before setting up his multidisciplinary Coeliac Disease Study Group at the University of Tampere in the early 1980s, Markku made his PhD in Tampere on childhood diarrhea, supervised by Professor Jarmo Visakorpi, former ESPGHAN president. Markku worked, as post doc in Professor Timo Vesikari's laboratory, and under his guidance was part of the 1983 publication on the need of a rotavirus vaccine for children. In the 1970s and early 1980s he was the only pediatric gastroenterologist performing fiberoptic endoscopies in the Nordic countries in children, trained by adult gastroenterologists. Also, Markku was involved in designing the prototype upper gastrointestinal endoscope for newborns and preterms.
Markku and his research, over the years, have been supported by his family, mainly by his wife Ritva, who also is a pediatrician. Markku and Ritva have 3 children and 3 grandchildren. The oldest granddaughter is studying mathematics and statistics at the university, their grandson is serving in the army and the younger granddaughter is a student.
Markku's scientific achievements are outstanding. He joined his nationwide patient organization, the Finnish Celiac Society, and his research has been inspired by the needs of the coeliac sufferers. He has published more than 400 peer review articles and PubMed counts more than 300 articles only within CD. His works has been published in gastroenterology journals such as JPGN, APT, American Journal of Gastroenterology, Gut, and Gastroenterology but also in other high impact journals, such as PNAS, Lancet, and The New England Journal of Medicine.
Markku has 38 articles that were cited more than 100 times and he is currently cited more than 1000 times per year, indicating the impact of his research.
Markku's research has focused on gluten-induced disease entities, clinics, epidemiology, genetics, and disease mechanisms both in children and adults. His plethora of publications have been translated to hypotheses for disease mechanisms and into new clinical tools used universally.
Markku was a pioneer in the use of serological markers in case finding of CD. He presented these results at the ESPGHAN meeting in Tampere in 1984, and his finding of the changing pattern of childhood coeliac was introduced within our society, here at ESPGHAN. In the late 1980s Markku introduced autoimmunity as a mechanism in CD, a hypothesis that was heavily criticized at that time but later gained general acceptance.
Within ESPGHAN, a new line of clinical research, CD latency, started with his publication in 1990 called “Normal small bowel biopsy followed by CD.” This article, and later a high-impact publication from Markku's group, showed the disease exists without a manifested small intestinal mucosal lesion, and new diagnostic criteria were called for. Markku took his pediatric CD and ESPGHAN know-how also to adult primary, secondary, and tertiary care, resulting in several pivotal findings.
He has been active in developing and validating CD outcome measures, especially morphometric measurements of the small intestinal morphology and inflammation.
This research line is still in progress. He has, over the years, been an opinion leader in the field of gluten-induced disease entities and today he is heavily involved in novel drug trials in CD.
The clinical and translational research performed by Markku's led CD Study Group has resulted in 33 completed MD/PhD or PhD academic theses. Over the years, undergraduate students, graduate students, and post docs from all over the world visited his laboratory and were trained in basic research and clinical skills within CD and gut mucosal cell biology. Many of these are ESPGHAN members who continue carrying the celiac torch with independent and creative thinking of their own.
In ESPGHAN, Markku had his first oral presentation at the ESPGHAN-NASPGHAN joint meeting in 1978 in Paris, and since then, he has attended most of the ESPGHAN annual meetings. He was the secretary of the ESPGHAN-organized multicenter CD family study already in 1985 to 1988, led by Professor Salvatore Auricchio.
Markku served as the ESPGHAN Secretary General in 1997 to 2000, and represented ESPGHAN at the Council of UEGF during these years.
He has been a member of several working groups within ESPGHAN and played an essential role in starting the revision of the CD diagnostic criteria. This led, under the future leadership of Professor Steffen Husby, to the ESPGHAN 2012 new diagnostic criteria for diagnosing CD.
Markku has received several national and international prizes for his research, one of which is the Wm. K. Warren Jr. Prize in CD in 2010. Markku is a permanent member of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters. Furthermore, the President of Finland has granted him the honor of Knight, First Class, of the Order of the White Rose of Finland in 2006.
Lastly, on a personal note, we learned much more than coeliac from Markku. The tenacity to spread the true findings, the noble way he left the ESPGHAN coeliac stage for the next generation and his great sense of humor and unique laughter taught us a lot over the years.
For all of the above, and more, it is a privilege for us to grant Markku in the name of ESPGHAN, the ESPGHAN Distinguished Service Award 2018.