Jennifer M. Hunter
Emeritus Professor of Anaesthesia, University of Liverpool, England
I was honoured and thrilled to be awarded an Honorary Life Fellowship of the European Society of Anaesthesiology (ESA) at the Euroanaesthesia Congress in London in May 2016. It has been a pleasure to be involved with the ESA since its inception. I have made so many friends who I would not have otherwise encountered, from all over Europe, and I have learned so much, not only scientifically, but also about the administration of a major international organisation.
After graduating from the University of St. Andrews in Scotland in 1971, and doing house jobs, as they were then known, I took up a first year training post in anaesthesia in Dundee. I spent eighteen months training in the Anaesthetic Department in Dundee where I received supervision in all the basic elements of anaesthetic practice. Much more freedom was allowed, letting me work alone at a very early stage, than would be permissible today. I remember doing a triple Le Fort facial fracture on my own my first Saturday morning on call after one month in the speciality. I was severely reprimanded for doing so later that day by the head of the department even though all had proceeded uneventfully. I was doing chair dental lists in isolated school clinics by three months and emergency caesarean sections in maternity homes 30 miles from my teaching hospital in the middle of the night. The thought of what I may have done fills me with horror now. But it was a time of much enjoyment, which confirmed my decision to train in anaesthesia. After 18 months in the speciality, I decided I wanted experience in paediatric anaesthesia, so I applied for a senior house officer post at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital in Liverpool. I spent a year in that post, working under the exceptional supervision of such luminaries as Dr. Jackson Rees and Dr. Gordon Bush. I sat at the feet of the almighty in paediatric anaesthesia and enjoyed every minute of it.
I then undertook the rest of my anaesthetic training in Liverpool, which gave me a much broader clinical experience than was available in Dundee at that time. I was taught the highest standards of clinical practice in the Liverpool school founded by T. Cecil Gray, which I have tried to maintain throughout my clinical career. As I approached the end of my training, I applied for a lecturer’s post in the university Department of Anaesthesia under the newly appointed second professor, John E. Utting. His mentorship was to prove of pivotal importance in my academic career. He taught me how to write scientific manuscripts and to present at scientific meetings. I was able to learn the basics of neuromuscular monitoring and to be involved with him in the early studies of atracurium and vecuronium. Thus my life’s research interests were established. The opportunities given to me through this work have been enormous and long-lasting. I was taken to the Anaesthetic Research Society (ARS) and made to present my work at an early stage in my academic career and thus began my contacts with my fellow academic anaesthetists throughout Great Britain.
I did indeed have many mentors during my training in Liverpool that extended into my consultant career and throughout my professional life. I consider this to have been an important contributor to my career development. Dr. J. Edmund Riding, the fifth Editor of the British Journal of Anaesthesia, was such an influence. He was Dean of the Faculty of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons in the mid-seventies when I was training and was a consultant anaesthetist in Liverpool and an honorary fellow in the university department. His friendship and encouragement have been of great help to me throughout my career. It was in part due his support and that of Professor Utting that I was elected to the Board of the British Journal of Anaesthesia in 1989: the first woman to do so. There I was honoured to meet many of the major contributors to anaesthesia in Great Britain and I learned a huge amount from many of them. I served as honorary secretary to this Board from 1991 to 1996, and became Editor-in-Chief of the journal in 1997. This experience proved to be the most important achievement of my career. It was too demanding to describe as enjoyable, but the constant pressures continued my medical education across fields I did not work in. I met and communicated with anaesthetists from around the world and still do so today as a result of my work with the journal. After eight years as EIC, I became Chairman of the BJA Editorial Board from 2006 to 2012.
When I finished my editorial role, two people encouraged me to contribute to the work of the newly founded ESA – Professors H.-J. Priebe (Freiburg, Germany) and George Hall (London). I am most grateful to them both for directing me towards the ESA, for it has given me further international experience that I would not have missed. As chair of the Scientific Programme Committee from 2006 to 2009, I gained further knowledge of wide areas of clinical research, as this involved also being a member of the ESA Research Committee and the Guidelines Committee. After completing my term of office, I became a member of the Nominations Committee for four years, being involved with the appointment of senior officers in the ESA. The setting up of the Clinical Trials Network at the ESA by Professors Andreas Hoeft and Paolo Pelosi among others has been a unique and special development. I am delighted to be involved with three clinical studies that are ongoing and hope to be able to do so for some years to come.
In 2015, I was honoured by Her Majesty the Queen when I was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in recognition of my “services to medicine and health care”.
My professional life has been one of endless opportunities, continued learning, and much friendship. I hope it will continue for many years to come.