Dr Jannicke Mellin-Olsen is one of the most easily recognisable faces at each year’s Euroanaesthesia, always smiling and ready to chat with colleagues and delegates, and often easy to spot in her colourful outfits. This year, the ESA Board have recognised her many achievements within the ESA and in anaesthesiology more broadly with the award of an ESA Honorary Membership. Here Jannicke tells us about some of the highlights of her long and wonderful career.
Q: Congratulations on the award of your honorary membership Jannicke. Tell us how you felt when you heard that ESA were going to give you this honour?
I was informed at an emotional moment for me, attending my last ESA Council meeting. It was a complete surprise, so I had an “out-of-body”-experience. Later, having had time to reflect, and knowing the colleagues that have received this award earlier, I feel very humble to be counted among them, in addition to being very grateful for being allowed to be linked to the ESA for the rest of my life.
Q: Looking back at your training, what made you choose anaesthesiology as your speciality?
In medical school, my teachers did not make me understand that anaesthesiology is applied physiology, and not only squeezing a bag and filling in giant ICU records nobody would understand! During my time as a UNIFIL (United Nations Interim Force In Lebanon) Senior Medical Officer, based in South Lebanon, it dawned on me that anaesthesiology is good for the head (quick informed decisions), hands (procedures) and heart (interacting with patients and relatives in dire conditions). It is the best speciality and I have never regretted it.
Q: How did you first become involved in anaesthesiology advocacy work?
Another ESA Honorary Member, Prof Olav FS Sellevold, recruited me to the Board of the Norwegian Society of Anaesthesiology in 1993. Since then, my advocacy work has only escalated, not only in anaesthesiology, but in the medical profession as such.
Q: You have had many roles within the ESA, including Secretary, served for six years on the Board as an elected member, and before that you were in the ESA Board as EBA President. Yet our members and the anaesthesiology community worldwide probably best know you for your work on the Helsinki Declaration on Patient Safety in Anaesthesiology. What are some of the highlights of your time on this project, and what do you think have been the main benefits for anaesthesiologists and patients worldwide?
The great collaboration with Drs Sven Staender, David Whitaker, Andy Smith and the EBA and ESA when we developed the Declaration, was a perfect example of minds and determination coming together. The launch in Helsinki 2010 was a very purposeful and motivating event, although we knew that a launch does not equal implementation. It took us by surprise that the rest of the world was so ready for the Declaration, so that was very inspiring. Now we are doing the following-up project. A Declaration itself does not change anything, but coming together for improved patient safety, sharing knowledge and experience and highlighting the issue is helpful and purposeful.
Q: You are currently serving as President-Elect of the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists (WFSA). Are you enjoying this role, and what kind of initiatives are you involved in?
The most important aspect of the WFSA is uniting anaesthesiologists to improve patient care around the world. Five out of seven billion people do not have access to safe, accessible and affordable anaesthesia and surgery. All of us anaesthesiologists, no matter whether we live in a resourceful or resource-poor environment, no matter our religion and culture – we all want the same: improving patient care, living in peace and creating a better future for our children. This shared purpose is very meaningful. The WFSA does advocacy, education and training, safety and innovation/research. I feel strongly that if we want to make major changes, then we must act on higher political level, and in partnerships with national and regional societies. To change things, we need metrics, for instance the WFSA Global Workforce Survey, which has mapped all anaesthesia providers in this world. The WFSA is in official relations with the WHO, so that is an important field, and we now work with governments on how to write national surgery, obstetric and anaesthesia plans. Like the ESA, WFSA has also committed to the cause of the Patient Safety Movement Foundation to eliminate preventable deaths in hospitals by 2020.
Q: What are some of the main challenges facing anaesthesiology at home in your native Norway, and more generally across Europe?
By far the biggest challenge is disengagement. If we do not take responsible leadership of our speciality, others will, and not necessarily to our liking. In Norway, we have lost much influence on postgraduate education, and this is a threat in other countries, as well. As there is anaesthesiologist shortage in many parts of Europe, we must take the lead in suggesting constructive solutions. In the ESA, we should strive for excellency, yet at the same time be inclusive, not exclusive. We older colleagues must inspire the next generation to do even better than we have.
Q: Which sessions are you most interested in at this year’s Euroanaesthesia?
Even though I have stepped down from the Board, I still have many business meetings to attend, so unfortunately, I will have limited time for scientific sessions. The Patient Safety sessions, the combined session with the nurses and the WFSA sessions are compulsory for me, and thankfully, I learn much just by discussing with colleagues. This is important to me, as I still have a full time clinical post in my hospital.
Q: Thank you Jannicke, and enjoy the rest of Euroanaesthesia!