We are honored to present another unique personality in our Personalities in Medicine column, MUDr. Kateřina Sédová. Founder of the non-profit organization Loono, which educates the public in the field of health.
MUDr. Kateřina Šédová (nee Vacková)
Graduated from the 1st Faculty of Medicine, majoring in General Medicine. During her studies, after her own experience with cancer, she founded the non-profit organization Loono, which now brings together more than 100 young doctors and medical students. During the eight years of its existence, Loono organized more than 2500 workshops and trainings, where over 120 thousand people learned how to take care of themselves. Dozens of them have demonstrably detected cancer in time thanks to this. Recently, Loono introduced a new app Preventiveka to help users live longer and better lives.
You are the well-known founder of the Loono project, what led you to this idea?
When I was 22 years old, doctors discovered a malignant tumor on my ovary. Fortunately, because I listened to the warning signs, it was caught early and I had recovered. The initial shock of the diagnosis was subsequently replaced by a desire to help people and inspire them not to underestimate prevention. That's why I founded Loono. Because prevention saves lives.
When I talked to my friends, who at that time did not study medicine like me, I found that they would not perceive such warning signs and therefore would probably not go to the doctor with them, which could have fatal consequences for them. Come on time is absolutely key in these cases.
Beginnings are always difficult, what were yours like at Loono?
We started the campaign I reach for them every month with the subtitle #prsakoule, in which we still focus on breast and testicular tumors and the importance of self-examination. I bought models of these parts of the body, traveled all over the Czech Republic and myself explained to visitors at workshops what it is about and how they can properly examine themselves. In its eight years of existence, Loono has become an organization with over 100 people. A large part of this is made up of doctors and medics, and the rest is an organizational team that includes professionals from marketing, fundraising, HR and more. It's amazing how we've grown. I'm really big on it joy.
Our Pink October is currently underway, as part of which we have prepared many interesting activities. With the campaign, we not only want to promote awareness of breast cancer prevention, but also raise funds to spread awareness about the prevention of oncological diseases. That's why we launched a collection on Donio.cz.
What were the obstacles you had to overcome and is there anything that didn't work out?
Of course, the beginnings were very difficult, because I had to solve almost everything myself. I was studying medicine and in my spare time I was going around workshops with an IKEA bag in which I had the mentioned models. Campaign #prsakoule but very quickly it gained a lot of attention and I was joined by more and more medics and volunteers who wanted to teach the public about prevention. Today, I remember the beginnings very fondly, although of course there were many moments when I was not laughing. Leading people was also a big challenge. It was a great school of humility for a medic who had never done anything like this before. I learned that the team matters the most and that without the help of other people, Loono would never be where it is, so you need to pamper people.
How long did you work on the project? Have you ever felt burnt out on a project? What is your position in Loon now?
I have devoted myself to Loono very intensively for the entire eight years of its existence. And it's a very varied job, which is at the same time an incredible challenge, because we always have somewhere to move. So it's definitely not a stereotype.
I never felt burnt out, although there were times when I, too, hit rock bottom with many elaborate weekends. But now I'm watching myself. At Loono, we also focus on the burnout syndrome as part of the Dobré nitro campaign, which every 5 Czechs will meet during their lifetime, which is a really high number. So I know very well what its symptoms and risk factors are. If I start to feel them, I start to act.
What does Loono do today and what does it help people with?
During its operation, Loono launched four major campaigns, within the framework of which it educates the public in the areas of prevention of oncological (#prsakoule) and cardiovascular diseases (Žiješ srdcem) and reproductive (Dole dobrý) and mental health (Dobré nitro). Currently, our focus is on prevention as a whole, especially on the diseases of civilization, which are the cause of 70% of deaths in developed countries.
We want to offer a complete overview of prevention in the Czech Republic, explain how to prevent various diseases and how to detect them in time. We bring you comprehensive information about screening programs. We also cover primary prevention and topics such as healthy diet, exercise, sleep and more. We organize workshops in companies, schools and cultural events, we pay a lot of attention to social networks, we write a blog, we record a podcast, we offer a wide range of e-learning, we create infographics, we send information to large and small media, we cooperate with influencers and take care of our Preventivka, an application that we recently introduced to the public.
In 2016, you were in Forbes magazine, and in 2021 you became the recipient of the prestigious EY Socially Beneficial Entrepreneur of the Year award. How do you perceive it? Has it changed your life in any way?
I am very proud of all such awards, because they prove that our work really has meaning and that the professional and lay public perceive it as beneficial. That's why I value all nominations and awards immensely. They are incredibly motivating and open doors.
I am thrilled that Loono is seeing its benefits abroad. This year we brought home the prestigious EU Health Award from Brussels and I became a grantee of the American McNulty Foundation, for which I was nominated by the Czech Aspen Institute. Real leaders sit on the jury, including Madeleine Albright in the past.
But the biggest award for me is that today Loono consists of an incredible team of talented people, that we have nationwide reach and that we are demonstrably saving lives. Thanks to Loono, more than sixty people have already discovered cancer or other serious diseases in time, and thanks to this, they have been successfully cured. And what is more than saving lives?
Why did you choose medicine and apply to medical school?
In the end, I decided to study medicine using the elimination method. My sister was studying law at the time, but stacks of lawyers didn't appeal to me. Mathematics and physics were not my strong points, and technical fields were then presented more to boys. As for the arts, it was completely beyond me. Don't want to see my pictures or hear my singing (laughs). So that left medicine. In addition, I really enjoyed biology.
You do not regret this decision?
I definitely have no regrets. Medicine is a beautiful field, quite detective, action-packed and a great school of life in terms of communication, empathy and social intelligence. That's why I definitely wouldn't change.
Why did you choose an internship?
Civilization diseases, which include, for example, cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, asthma and diseases of the digestive tract, are the most common cause of death in developed countries, including in the Czech Republic. Given that I am also involved in preventive medicine within Loono, the internship seemed to me to be the best choice, because it simply contains the most prevention. During my studies, however, I wanted to be a gynecologist for a long time. But in the end, she won thanks to the experience and campaigns from Loono interna.
Why medical students should choose this field?
Iinternal is, I dare say, the most complex field. And also a great start for any other field that one decides to do. I would therefore recommend every graduate to start an internship to learn how to triage the most common acute diseases. To be able to read an EKG and recognize a heart attack, interpret basic laboratory results and, last but not least, prescribe the most commonly used medicines. These are all basics that you won't be ashamed of not knowing later.
Is there anything you would like to say to young doctors and medics?
Educate yourself about new technologies and practices. Medicine is developing as fast as other fields, don't fall asleep. Don't get stuck in a rut and actively challenge the chief and senior doctors to make the work on the clinic more efficient. Come up with ideas to improve work for your colleagues and yourself. Some clinics need islands of such positive deviance like salt. Oh, and learn to write with all 10s. You'll appreciate it most at 3:30 in the morning when you're taking down the next homeless person brought in by the "erzeta".
Do you have any secret dreams or other projects that you would like to try to realize in the future?
We have just introduced our new app Preventivka, a project we have been working on very intensively at Loono over the past few months. It shows users which preventive check-ups they should attend and explains what to expect at such check-ups. Each month, it will remind you to self-examine, help you find the right professional in your area, and offer verified and easy-to-understand health and prevention information. My goal, not even a dream, is to get Preventivka on people's mobile devices across the Czech Republic and in the future across Europe. We want to increase attendance at screening programmes to ensure that no one ever dies from a preventable disease again.
Preventivka began its development in the Česko.Digital accelerator and the launch of MVP was supported by the PPF Foundation. We tested the app with a limited number of users, taking their feedback and adapting its features to make it an indispensable tool for anyone who wants to take care of their health and the health of their family.
We are very grateful to the doctor for the interview.
The interview was prepared for you by Filip and Jana.