Interview with Dr Jannicke Mellin-Olsen, ESA Secretary

Interview with Dr Jannicke Mellin-Olsen, ESA Secretary

  • Issue 69

Dr Jannicke Mellin-Olsen
ESA Secretary

Note from the Editor – The ESA Newsletter editorial board has started a new rubric – interviews with the organization officers, in order to get a better image of the main directions of ESA activity, to understand the functionality of its bodies, and its future plans.


Dr Jannicke Mellin-Olsen, Secretary of the ESA Board, answered this new initiative and here are her answers.

After more than 10 years of continuous presence of ESA on the continent’s professional landscape, how do you see its leading role as the main European organization in the field?

The current ESA is the result of the amalgamation between CENSA (the European national societies), the academic European Academy of Anaesthesiology (EAA), and the old ESA that was open to all individual anaesthesiologists in Europe. The backgrounds of these three organisations were very different. It has taken some time to merge them and to develop a new identity and culture. In addition, there is the European Board of Anaesthesiology/UEMS, the political branch of European anaesthesiology. We need to continue to work together to ensure that politics and science go hand-in-hand. We must work on our professional and scientific identity, safeguarding all pillars of European anaesthesiology. The high fashion term “perioperative medicine” has been a reality in several European countries for many years, and it is interesting that other parts of the world now follow suit. As European anaesthesiologists, we are the leaders in anaesthesia, intensive care medicine, critical emergency medicine and resuscitation, and pain medicine, including (in several countries) palliative medicine, too. That is one reason why our speciality is so interesting and attractive, and we have much to share with other countries and regions.

Describe, please, the activity of the ESA Board, its tasks and aims

The ESA Board directs and conducts the general activities of the ESA. The Board is responsible for the strategies, finances, and running of the secretariat. The Board is a governing body, but in reality it does more than that. The workload for board members has increased over the years, and could for some positions be compared to having an additional job, but on a completely voluntary basis. The reward is that those who are motivated can have a real impact on European anaesthesiology, and the international networking is stimulating and educational.

What is the functional connection between the Board and the Council? How does it work?

The formal responsibility of the Council is to elect the Board of Directors and dismiss it, if indicated. The Council is also responsible for proposing Bylaws changes to the General Assembly. In addition to the formal duties, the Council is a useful reference group for the Board and helps the Board find the right direction and priorities. The Council is supposed to be a link between individual members in their country and the ESA. There still is room for improvement in that respect, as there still is for increasing the role of the national societies in the amalgamated ESA.

How do we progress towards closing the gap between the West and the East from the professional point of view?

Gaps exist in several aspects, not only between regions in ESA (East and West), but also within almost each country (central and rural, for instance) and there are great variations in workforce issues and education throughout the ESA. We have covered some ground during the last years. Eastern European colleagues are very visible in our governing structures and committees, and we have had our first Eastern European president. It is hard for the ESA to change the economic situation in our countries, and we are all coloured by our political history. But in the ESA, we can share friendship as well as scientific knowledge, education, exams to improve the level of what we can do. Basically, we all share the same ambitions for our professional and personal lives. Working together on a European level is the best we can do. In addition, there are specific educational programmes and projects, like partnering and mentoring programmes, Hospital Visitation and Accreditation Programme, Train Abroad Practice at Home, CEEA, Teach the Teachers initiatives, Training Exchange Programme, scholarships, and research networks – there is so much we can do together.

ESA is an organization for all the anaesthesiologists. How is the new generation represented in the Society organization (leadership, committees, etc.)?

There are two trainee representatives in the Council, and there is a Trainee Network. They benefit from lower registration fees for our congresses and can participate in the Trainee Exchange Programme. The Online Assessment and EDAIC are also important means for them to get involved in the ESA. But the ESA itself can do just so much, as trainees must be encouraged and supported by their superiors and teachers to be able to attend our meetings and to get involved in research and other activities.

What are your plans for the next year regarding the activity in the ESA Board?

We need to prove value to our members. The Board will continue its strategy work and also develop other tasks. We must continuously work on the governance and the finances. The Board, with the help of the secretariat, must facilitate the work of all committees. There is a project underway to follow up on the Helsinki Declaration on Patient Safety in Anaesthesiology, and that will hopefully serve to support all of us who need support to implement the Declaration in our hospitals and countries. Many other activities regarding education, research, and safeguarding our speciality are also underway. We also need to expand the membership base and prove to all our colleagues that ESA is an open and friendly organisation – the natural home and meeting point for all European anaesthesiologists. We are also working with other international bodies as well, to demonstrate that we have much to share with the rest of the world. It is rewarding to be involved in the ESA leadership, so I encourage all to get involved.