PhD Salary in the Faculty of Medicine at Uppsala University

One of the best things about being a PhD student in Sweden is the salary. PhD students in the USA often only have to work 20 hours per week (with an assistantship) or maybe technically, 0 hours per week (with a fellowship). Still others do not have to work, but do have to pay to attend their PhD program. Yuck!

When students do work, it’s not uncommon to get between $12,000-$18,000 per year (or per school year), while some fancy people may get as high as $30,000. For example, my buddy got $17,000 plus another $10,000 fellowship.

But those numbers pale in comparison to Sweden! Click here to see the pdf of the Uppsala University pay scale for PhD students in Medicine.

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Currently, a starting PhD student will have to work 40 hours per week, but that also includes their course work, conference time, etc, and their work (i.e. research). In compensation for that, they receive 25,000 SEK per month ($2936 per month or $35,232 per year–and that’s at the current crappy conversion rate [1:8.52]).

When students are 50% completed with their PhD they earn 27,900 SEK per month ($3276 per month) and when they’re 80% completed (all but dissertation normally), then they receive 29,700 SEK per month ($3488 per month or $41,856 per year!).  Plus all of the government benefits and pension money.

Of course, if you are not just a researcher, but also a physician, then your salary increases to a whopping 35,700 SEK per month ($50,304 per year)!

Not too shabby to be a PhD student in Sweden!

Swedish Gender Equality Defined Poorly by Statistics Sweden

In highlighting 30 years of gender progress, a recent Swedish government report states that gender equality gaps are closing (Statistics Sweden, 2014).

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Although this report is very useful and helps to shed light on important factors for women/mothers and men/fathers regarding gender equality in the home, childcare, and workplace, the report focuses on gender equality mainly in terms of the amount of time women/mothers and men/fathers spend in doing something (e.g. work, housework, childcare).

This post will point out the major flaws in defining “gender equality” the way this report does.

For example, the report says the gender gap is closing regarding housework (after all it’s listed under the headline “Gender Equality Since the 1980s” on page 4). But on page 5, they start going deeper saying  that women have reduced their amount of unpaid work by one hour, while men have increased their amount of unpaid work by only eight minutes since 1990.

In other words, gender equality is being achieved just because women are doing less around the house. Thank you dishwasher for making my house more gender equal. Thank you maid for making us a gender equal family. Thank you childcare worker for watching our kids all day and night, and thus, we both spend an equal amount of time with our kids. Hypothetically this could mean that parents spend 0 hours per week doing housework, childcare, etc to reach “gender equality”.

Obviously that last example wouldn’t happen–but defining gender equality this way allows for that interpretation if it did happen. Focusing on the amount of time someone spends doing something is a horrible way to judge equality.

Two definitions (among many others) would be to focus on productivity and/or the intensity/amount of labor it takes to complete a task.

1) Being Productive: If one person diddle-daddles around the house while cleaning, they all of a sudden, get more points for the amount of housework completed, compared to the efficient houseworker???

2) Intensity:  Putting away dishes is a daily chore, but low-intensity. Pulling weeds is a weekly chore, but high intensity. (Substitute weed pulling for raking leaves or snow shoveling, depending on the season).

It’s not fair to judge women and men based on how much time they spend doing chores, especially if they also don’t consider the productivity of the worker or the intensity of the chore.

The Swedish government, which prides itself on achieving gender equality needs to do a better job of more accurately defining this important term. Otherwise, the outcomes are biased and therefore not as untrustworthy.

Second Antenatal Visit: Equality, long office hours, and welcoming of non-Swedish speakers

After our first prenatal visit, we decided to look up online what other clinics we could go to. Not missing the irony of trying to be an involved expectant father, Lisa types into Google “MVC Uppsala.” MVC standing for mödravårdscentral (maternity center–with a name like that, why would fathers ever feel like they’re not welcome?).

The first Google hit was Barnmorskemottagningen Hjärtat (Midwifery Clinic Heart). It happened to be a private antenatal clinic (not sure if that’s relevant).

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We quickly noticed on their website (here) that they have longer office hours and have parenting classes in English.

“Yes, let’s go there. That sounds good,” I said to Lisa. She called and booked an appointment, since we were supposed to have a second visit anyhow, before the ultrasound (I later learned that sometimes midwives have one visit, while others have two, before the ultrasound at week 18-19).

Immediately upon entering the clinic, we were both happily stunned.

“It’s so big and nice,” Lisa said. I concurred. We walked around a little before taking a seat. They had some special extras, like lemon water and some cookies in the waiting room, along with the staples like Mama, Vi Föräldrar, and other magazines more aimed at a female audience (I can’t escape my research background when I enter a waiting room environment [see my previous blog post here about child health waiting rooms]).

The midwife greeted us, without hesitation, shaking both of our hands and making eye contact before moving on to whatever we would do next.

Oh man, I feel so appreciated! I thought. This is the place we’ll come for all of our visits.

She then took us on a brief tour, showing us where they have parenting classes, their balcony that overlooks parts of the city, bathrooms, etc.

What a wonderful welcoming and great first impression of the place and the midwife. 

And out of the six other couples there, only one person (expectant mother) was there by herself.

We came to her office and sat down. She was probably in her mid-to-late 30s and had no trouble speaking English. Bright and full of smiles, we continued our visit.

This visit was a bit shorter, since we had already gone over a lot of information in the first session. But since it was a new midwife, Lisa went over her medical history. And of course, we had to go over the usual stuff–who are you? But this time, the midwife actually asked about me immediately after finding out Lisa’s background information.

Now that we had been pregnant for a few extra weeks, we were able to experience more pregnancy-related matters, like morning sickness. So naturally, we took up that conversation with the midwife and received some good tips.

Tips included a morning sickness pill, an acupuncture-type bracelet, and a print-out of various types of food to eat and to avoid.

She then reiterated the ultrasound, and we booked a time for the ultrasound visit.

The only disappointing thing about the trip was that the English parenting classes were going to be put on hold. The woman who leads the class was on parental leave and therefore wouldn’t be available to teach the parenting classes in the fall of 2015. So we’ll see how attending the Swedish ones goes.

Side note–Apparently the English parenting classes are shorter than the Swedish ones. The midwife stated that the same important information is provided in both classes, but in the Swedish classes, outside people from the community are brought in to talk about different services (but those weren’t offered in the English speaking class).

Naturally hearing that we’d get “extra” services, Lisa preferred the Swedish classes, and I couldn’t help but feel like those attending the non-Swedish speaking classes were missing out (even if the most vital information was offered in both). Hmm, perhaps the first clinic was better–at least for me attending parenting classes. Time will tell.

First Antenatal Visit: Gender issues, limited office hours, and language problems

Prior to the first visit, Lisa called to make an appointment at a prenatal clinic close to our home. Since we wouldn’t meet them for two more weeks, she asked them about what types of food she can and can’t eat while pregnant.

They responded by saying to visit Livsmedelsverket to see the latest food recommendations.

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As a fatherhood researcher that focuses on child health, you might be surprised to learn that I never thought about my research when my girlfriend and I went to our first antenatal visit.

All I could think about was how nervous I was, how nervous she was, and what information we might glean from attending.

So, pure usual, I nervously coughed, hacking out a lung, before entering the building and climbing the stairs.

We had picked a prenatal clinic close to our home, figuring that would be the best option–convenience always has its rewards. It happened to be a public clinic, although I’m not so sure how important that is?

We walked in and patiently waiting in the lounge area for our names to be called. Within minutes, we heard the beckoning sounds of an older, albeit experienced, midwife: “Lisa,” she announced.

We sprung up. She exchanged some quick words with Lisa while shaking her hand. No eye contact was exchanged in my direction, so I hopped in and held out my hand. She shook it, while turning her head, preparing to walk back to her office.

She didn’t even ask my name, I thought. My research came flooding into my mind. It was certainly one thing to read about the misfortune of others, and quite another to experience gender discrimination. My first encounter with a medical profession about my changing role from man and partner to father, and I’m met with an abrupt non-introduction. Shit!

I can’t ever be too judgmental though. After all, I don’t speak much Swedish, so perhaps I need to be more engaged in the conversation in order to garner more attention. Fair enough.

We meandered back to her office, and took two seats opposite the midwife. We asked if it was ok to speak in English, but that Swedish was fine, especially for more complicated questions. The midwife happily agreed, and in shyness, excused her “bad” English. It wasn’t bad at all. In fact, I would call it quite good, and so we both reassured her.

She began typing on her computer before asking “Lisa, can you please tell me your email? I’d like to send you some parenting information and information about your upcoming visits.”

Lisa did so. After a couple of other short exchanges with Lisa, such as, what do you do for a living and other small talk, the midwife looked over at me and asked “And what is your name? And can you give me your contact information?”

“Do you want my email address too,” I asked.

“No, I just need your phone number in case we can’t reach Lisa,” she replied.

What the hell! I thought. Why can’t I also be emailed the same information? Oh well, Lisa will just forward the email to me. I gave her my phone number.

Then she proceeded to ask Lisa several questions about her drinking and smoking habits via completing some survey forms.

While Lisa completed the forms I asked, “what are these forms for?”

“Oh, to see if there are any drinking or smoking problems. If so, then we like to recommend places where people can see support, since it’s not healthy to smoke or drink when you’re pregnant,” the midwife politely replied.

So many thoughts went through my head. So my drinking and smoking habits don’t matter for the health of the baby? What if I was an alcoholic–would it benefit my child and the mother, as well as myself, if I also got some support for my habits? Isn’t second-hand smoke not ideal? Can’t I get support if I need it?

It was hard to raise these issues though, since I don’t smoke and only occasionally drink.

“How much is too much drinking during early pregnancy?,” I asked questioningly. I was actually interested in this answer, because I have heard some conflicting reports on if drinking during the first 6 weeks of pregnancy can hurt the baby (plus I had time to kill while Lisa completed the forms).

“Oh, Lisa’s amount is fine,” she said looking at Lisa’s drinking record (side note–the survey asks how much you drink, on average, over the past year–not specifically on how much you’ve been drinking while pregnant).

Her immediate and thoughtless answer really upset me. She clearly hadn’t listened to what my question was, and instead was just trying to calm me from being worried about drinking while pregnant by giving me a non-descript answer. Now I need to inquire more.

I lied (but she doesn’t know that). “Lisa has been doing a lot of drinking since she’s been pregnant. Way more than before being pregnant because of different end of the year parties. So I’m wondering if she has been having too much.”

“No, no, she’s fine,” the midwife answered back quickly.

What the fuck! You didn’t even ask me how much she’d been drinking while pregnant, and yet you can still give an answer basically saying there is no limit to how much she could have drank? I thought, while also simultaneously thinking Oh crap, now Lisa is mad because I just made her sound like she drinks a lot. Maybe I should only stick to issues that actually matter to us, because I’m clearly not getting medical answers.

The visit continued, discussing various issues, like how often we’d come, what week we were in, and other topics we had questions about–like parenting classes in English and their hours of operation.

Around 40 minutes into the meeting, and after me asking several questions to show that I’m engaged in the conversation, the midwife finally asks me “what do you do for a living?”

Now I’m a bit embarrassed. “I research father involvement in the child health field.”

“Oh that’s interesting,” she responded hesitantly. “I have two thoughts about fathers coming here, but maybe it’s because I’m old. Either they need to work and so they can’t come here, or they come here because they are controlling of their partner.”

Wait. What the hell? Did I just hear what I thought I heard? Was she accusing me of being controlling, or just men in general? I can’t be here because I’m interested in my pregnancy? I can’t be here because I want to learn and be involved?  I can’t be here to support my partner in pregnancy? I can’t be here because I want to experience my work first hand? I don’t believe it. Quick, look at Lisa and see if she heard the same thing…..She did, she heard the same thing. 

Well that shut me up. I am no longer engaged in the conversation. I’m not upset, outwardly, but I’ll just want her finish up the visit, so we can get out of there.

The rest of the conversation was pleasant, and we finished about 15-20 minutes later, after talking the ultrasound visit, the various types of tests you could get at that visit, and the prenatal parenting classes.

To their credit, she stated that I could get an interpreter for the parenting classes and that they were going to start up their first fathers’ group class ever, even if she said that reluctantly.

On the way home Lisa started the conversation, “did you hear what she said about fathers?”

“How could I not?,” I replied with disgust.

After a short conversation at home, we decided the closest antenatal clinic isn’t necessarily the best. Not only were there obvious gender issues (especially since both Lisa and me want both of us to be there as often as we can), but there were other problems too–for example, not having parenting classes in English and having limited office hours. Office hours definitely matter for commuting expectant parents, because we need early morning or evening hours. 3pm doesn’t work when you work in another city.

Luckily, this hasn’t deterred me from being involved with my partners and my pregnancy. But it certainly didn’t encourage me to be involved with the child health field. For the record, Lisa didn’t have any problems, and felt ok continuing to go there for her sake, but not for mine. Luckily I have a very supportive partner (plus she would also like a place with longer opening hours).

Dissertation (Avhandling) Cover Photo

I’m often asked by fellow PhD students–what should I have on the cover of my dissertation (avhandling) book?

To me, the answer was very clear–I wanted the overall message, the theme, of my dissertation to be front and center on the cover.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, then I should shorten my dissertation 😉


I had a childhood friend, Kirb Brimstone (also found on Facebook here), do the artwork. I advised him what I wanted and he drew it.

Here’s the significance of my cover art:

Since my dissertation is about how fathers are not provided with an equal chance to parent, both through the Swedish family policies and through the institutions, like the child health field, I had this represented on the cover.

There’s an illustration of Sweden in the background, with a father, presumably from Uppsala University, holding his daughter’s hand as he walks towards a nurse and a preschool teacher.

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The nurse and preschool teacher are both women, signifying the gender difference men/fathers face at the outset of garnering parenting advice from these individuals.

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However, he is stopped at a fence, with a lock, signifying the gatekeeping that is happening as those who have knowledge about young children’s health hold the keys (and therefore the power) to inform or not inform others about young children’s health.

In this case, fathers feel like the gate is closed, and that they have several barriers to break down before they can be fully accepted into the child health world.

Even my own institution highlights the lack of the importance of fathers, as it is aptly named “Women’s and Children’s Health“.

Mainly people in Sweden and around the world believe that Sweden is a very gender equal country. And to its credit, it most certainly is, especially relative to other countries. But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a vast amount of work still needed before achieving gender equality. While many people work with the struggle for equal rights for women, few pose the argument on ways men/fathers are discriminated against, not the least of which is through the Swedish child health field.

With that in mind, the sign on the gatekeeping fence has a sign saying “Nullius in Verba” which is Latin for “take nobody’s word for it”. In other words, just because people believe Sweden is a gender equal country, and that men/fathers hold all of the power–do not take societies word for it.

Seek out the truth… reading my dissertation.

You can find a copy of my dissertation by clicking here.

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One last thing–I gave a tip of my hat to the father-figures in my life: my father (JSW), my two grandfathers (KFE & CRW), and my best childhood friends dad (SP) by having their initials “carved” into the fence on the right-hand side. This was also intended as a symbolic gesture, suggesting that these fathers had reached the gate, but were stopped and couldn’t be as involved in all aspects of childrearing as they might have liked due to the various levels of gatekeeping that they encountered.

A Swedish Spikning–Nailing my Dissertation

After sitting and writing your dissertation (avhandling) for months, the day comes when it’s is printed.


It looks so real! A book, with my name as the author is coming into being. Are all of my citations correct? Are my results right? I didn’t mess up any of the decimal places, did I?


After a thorough checking of your printed dissertation is completed, you send it in for processing and you get a real book!

Once your dissertation is complete, you have a spikning. A spikning is when you nail your avhandling (dissertation) to the wall.


Everyone used to nail it to a door/wall at the main university building, but today, it’s more common to only nail it within your own office space or to not even literally nail it, but rather just celebrate the accomplishment.


Either way, I did feel a bit like Martin Luther, although I think my findings were a bit less controversial.

And of course, it’s always nice to hear toasts, make toasts.


And celebrate the accomplishment with cake.


Now just a few short weeks until the actual defense.


The Ultrasound

Morning sickness was not an appropriate term. All-day sickness would be much more accurate, as it rears its ugly head morning, afternoon, and night. Not an ideal feeling, especially when you need to compete in a bike race. Incidentally, graviditetsillamående means pregnancy sickness.

Lisa finishing the Biking portion of the Tjej Swedish Classic.

Nevertheless, the summer had gone by. Lisa’s stomach had grown. But we were still in the beginning phases of pregnancy. In the right light, at the right part of the day, you could still see the outline of her 6-pack!

But we had passed the 12-week hurdle. The Swedish ultrasound typically takes place during week 18 or 19.

We were at the very beginning of week 20, having just come back from a vacation in Croatia. And we were quite eager to complete the ultrasound.

We entered the waiting room and sat patiently, exchanging small dialogue, as we both sat there in anticipation.

“Lisa,” a midwife called. We promptly nervously stood up.

“If you would like to be a part of the study, please come this way,” she said.

False alarm. But we went anyways. Uppsala Hospital is a teaching and research hospital. As such, this was our third research study that we were asked to be involved in. It involved having a sample of her blood taken, although currently there was no purpose to the study–apparently that would be created later. Being researchers, Lisa (we) agreed to partake anyhow.

We came back out to the drab waiting room. A minute later a voice called.


After some basic pleasantries, complete with handshaking, name exchanges, and eye contact, we were off and walking down the wall.

I couldn’t help but notice that every midwife was woman.


We went into the room. It was empty, except for a large complicated-looking machine, a larger flat screen tv, a hospital bed and an extra chair. We quickly assumed our respective positions.

I asked if I could take a picture. “No, not in here,” the midwife said in a stern but soft voice.

The midwife wasted no time and proceeded to check out Lisa’s tummy.

Holy shit! There’s my kid! On that big screen! That’s my child!

Even now, two months after getting the ultrasound, I tear up thinking about it.

Having studied father-child relationships within healthcare for years, I knew what to expect. I knew that most fathers feel their first true feelings of parenthood when they see the ultrasound. I knew that Lisa was pregnant. I knew I was already connected to my child.

But seeing my baby up on that screen gave a whole new sense to being pregnant. And Lisa also felt more closely connected. How could you not? (or at least that’s how we felt).

We couldn’t help ourselves from holding each others’ hands. Touching each other, while we stared at this screen showing our baby.

In the meantime, the midwife was performing her exam. Silence fell upon the room.

The midwife was extremely nice and friendly and tried to provide the best answers she could; and she did a good job.

Lisa, I noticed, said a lot of emotion-based statements, such as “oh wow, the heart is beating so fast. That’s so cool.”

While I asked a lot of statistical-type questions: “how many beats per minute is the heart beating?”

We were both concerned–but Lisa made statements as though the glass were half full, while most of my statements were seen as the glass half empty.

I noticed I was constantly concerned about “what if,” as in “how wide should the head be, and what if it’s not that wide, what does that mean?”

The midwife answered my questions without putting either of us into a panic. Without me asking questions though, the midwife never talked, with two exceptions: One at the very beginning: “do you want any of the extra tests?”

“No,” we replied unanimously, having already read a brochure and decided ahead of time that they were not necessary for us.

Information pamphlet we received before going to the ultrasound, making us aware of the various tests parents-to-be can get.



And one at the very end: “do you want to know the gender?”

“No, we’d like it to be a surprise,” Lisa replied.

“Well I’d like to know,” I said half-jokingly. “You could just whisper it to me.”

“No I can’t do that,” the midwife replied.

It wasn’t completely clear if she took me seriously and just wanted to respect Lisa’s wishes, or if she thought I was joking and therefore played along.

Either way, we were given a diagnosis of–“as far as I can tell, based off of the ultrasound, everything looks good.”
She continued noting, “But you are actually at the beginning of week 19 instead of the original guess of week 20. So your new due date is the 25th of January 2016.”

Week 19!

Pregnancy Test

Finding out you’re pregnant is filled with emotions. For some it’s positive, for others it’s negative. For Lisa and me, it definitely was one of the happiest days of our lives!

We had planned to try to have a kid after I graduated with my PhD. But it wasn’t all glorious and fun.


Getting pregnant was filled with confusion, but not for the usual reasons. See, being an American living in Sweden, I needed to leave the country to apply for a working visa, or in my case, a visiting researcher visa, as soon as I graduated with my PhD. Prior till now, I only had a student visa.

So, while everyone was celebrating my graduation, all I could think about was that I would have to leave my job(s), my home, and most importantly, my girlfriend. I had two job offers, but those would need to have a later starting date. It was time to leave the country.

Luckily, getting a visiting researcher visa went quickly. We were told that it could be as quick as 10 days, but in three days, I had a decision.

I met my girlfriend and another friend (my only [and best] friend with a car) at the airport. We were all eager to greet each other and had a lovely conversation about being reunited (even though it had only been a week).

After that, life continued like normal.

“My butt is too big. My boobs are hurting. I need to go to the gym more often,” Lisa said one evening.

“Yes, let’s do that,” I replied.

Off we went.

We then spent the next few weeks biking around Uppsala. My girlfriend was competing in the Tjej (Women’s) Swedish Classic. Having already finished the swimming, running, and cross country skiing portions, all she needed to do was complete a 100km bike race, and the Classic medal would be hers.

So we started logging the km’s. And getting sore butts.

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Then one day at the end of May (25th):
“Mike, I’m late,” Lisa said nervously. “What do you think we should do? Should I take a test? Should I wait? Should I take a test?”

Knowing that she gets into a panic-like state from time-to-time, I wasn’t bothered.

“Look, if you want to do a pregnancy test, I wouldn’t say don’t do it. But we only had one chance for you to be pregnant–my graduation night. Because after that I’ve been gone.”

“Ya, I know. So it’s probably just the stress I’m having. Or maybe that I just got off the pill three weeks ago.”

Later that night she went off to buy a test. She came back with three. One would not be sufficient, apparently. The box read that you get the best results in the morning.

“Will you take the test in the morning,” I asked.

“I don’t know,” she replied as she contemplated her options. “Maybe I’ll just wait a bit and see. My cycles are probably just delayed.”

The next morning, I was pounced on. It was 6:15am. It wasn’t that I was half asleep; it was that I was used to Lisa jumping on me in the morning as she gives me kisses goodbye before heading off to Stockholm.

“Michael,” she said cautiously.

I instantly reacted to her tone. It wasn’t the way she’d say goodbye.

“What baby?”

“I think we’re pregnant!” she hesitantly said, while showing off her pregnancy test.



Words then started cascading out of her mouth. With so much speed and earnestness.  All I remember is that she went into great detail about how quickly the results showed up.

And I just as quickly responded, pointing out to her that she did the testing all on her own. Without me present. I wasn’t included. 

My first experience of becoming a father, and I already experienced the “closed gate” of maternal gatekeeping.

But oh wells–we’re pregnant!

And pictures need to be taken to show how our bodies will change over the next 40(ish) weeks.

Yes, at the end of May, in Sweden, it is this sunny at 6:45am.
I love that our “Bike Love” picture, where we keep our racing bikes is in the background.

A couple of weeks later, Lisa went on to compete and finish the biking leg of the Tjej Swedish Classic….pregnant!

Less than 500 meters left of the 100km race!
The champion! All four races completed!