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Distinguished Service Awards 2020 Winners


The Distinguished Service Award is conferred on individuals who have made a special contribution to the Art or Science of Anaesthesiology; helped promote or establish Anaesthesia initiatives anywhere in the world, or to a Council or Committee member who has provided exceptional service in this or another capacity to the WFSA and the international anaesthesia community. The WFSA is proud to announce the winners of the 2020 Distinguished Service Awards:

Dr Sereima Bale – Fiji

2–Dr Sereima Bale

Dr Sereima Bale was born on the remote Island of Koro in Fiji, one of 5 children. She was able to study in Suva and ultimately progress onto the medical course at Fiji School of Medicine. She then attended the Western Pacific Anaesthetic Training Course (WPATC) in Manila, Philippines, where she completed her Postgraduate Diploma in Anaesthesia, a course then run through the WFSA.

Dr Bale has been a senior lecturer in anaesthesia at the Fiji National University (FNU) for over 20 years, where, amongst many other accolades, she was responsible for the establishment of a Diploma of Anaesthesia (DA) and the Masters of Medicine (MMed) Anaesthesia. She has provided 48 years of continuous service as an Anaesthetist in Fiji, and is currently Consultant Anaesthetist at the Colonial War Memorial Hospital (CWMH), Suva. In 2012, Dr Bale was honoured as one of the first members of the CWMH Hall of Fame for Perioperative Medical Services.

She has been instrumental in introducing Primary Trauma Care training in the Pacific, has been closely involved with the Australian Society of Anaesthetists (ASA) Pacific Fellowship program since 2003, and has also supported many other courses including the SAFE Obstetrics course. She works closely with the ASA Overseas Development and Education Committee (ODEC) and formed the Pacific Society of Anaesthetists. She is also clinical advisor to the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-supported organisation, “Strengthening Specialized Clinical Services in the Pacific” (SSCIP). In August 2003 a new program was introduced with her assistance to enable trainees in their final 5th year of training from Australia to spend three months in the Pacific Fellowship. This was accredited with the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists and continues today as the Sereima Bale Pacific Fellowship.

Kessete Teweldebrhan – Eritrea

Kessete Teweldebrhan

In 1967 Kessete Teweldebrhan began his medical career in Harare, Eritrea, as a nurse and went on to become the first male professional midwife and head nurse. Following training at the WHO sponsored School of Anaesthesia in Addis Ababa, he became Head of the Anaesthesia Service in the Nekemte Regional Referral Hospital and went on to become Assistant Head of Anaesthesia Services in Addis Ababa. Over a politically turbulent period of 40 years, he almost single-handedly established residency programmes for graduating nurse anaesthetists and went on to open programmes in surgery, obstetrics and gynaecology, orthopaedics and ophthalmology. He founded the first School of Nurse Anaesthesia training in Addis Ababa and was instrumental in establishing seven more Schools of Nurse Anaesthesia training in Ethiopia. He co-founded the first School of Nurse Anaesthesia in Eritrea and his work there continues.

In 1998 he was due to receive a Doctor of Medicine (Causa Honoris) from the University of Bern, Switzerland. Unfortunately before he could receive it he was summarily deported from Ethiopia to Eritrea, when he suffered a massive stroke, unable to walk or speak. The Eritrean Ministry of Health directed Kessete and another Eritrean nurse anaesthetist, Ghebrebrhan Haile, to develop a two-year curriculum for training nurse anaesthetists. Somehow, with his astonishing resilience, Kessete started all over again and got the Eritrean programme going.

He has now trained almost 250 nurse anaesthetists in both Ethiopia and Eritrea, who have gone on to train over 2000 nurse anaesthetists from over 20 schools. He founded and directed the School of Anaesthesia in Ethiopia between 1982 and1998 and also the Ethiopian Association of Nurse Anaesthetists, serving four terms as President of the Association.

In 2018 the Ethiopian Association of Anaesthetists invited him to come from Asmara in Eritrea to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia to receive recognition as the “Father of Ethiopian Anaesthesia” This was a major event and a big part of the Eritrea-Ethiopia reconciliation process.

Dr Isabeau Walker – Great Britain and Ireland

Isabeau Walker

As a dedicated clinician at Great Ormond Street Hospital, specialising in paediatric cardiac anaesthesia and clinical safety, Dr Isabeau Walker first gained an interest in international anaesthesia by undertaking specialist surgical missions in a variety of sub-Saharan countries. Following exposure to the diverse challenges faced by local clinicians, she has made many on-going contributions in this area of work on a voluntary basis.

Dr Walker has been integral to the development of all the SAFE training programme, supported by the WFSA and Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (AAGBI), and sealed its success with the inclusion of the train-the-trainer programme. Isabeau’s vast experience as a specialist paediatric anaesthetist and postgraduate educator aided the development of a sustainable and transferable education programme enabling the delivery of safe care in under-resourced locations. With a winning formula for paediatrics, she has developed courses for obstetric and team working in the operating room.

As chair of the WFSA Publications committee (2012-16) she made a huge contribution by writing and editing papers and journals for WFSA and numerous other journals. She ran the book donation scheme for the AAGBI and WFSA, which helps many anaesthetists working without learning materials.

Isabeau led the AAGBI Uganda Anaesthesia Fellowship programme (2008-18), which has increased the number of medical anaesthesiologists training in Uganda from 2 to more than 70. One of the main aims of the programme was sustainability of a national training programme.

As an elected member of the AAGBI Council, Isabeau added vision and energy to the International Relations Committee. Along with Dr Iain Wilson, she is a founding trustee of Lifebox and provided clinical leadership to ensure that the WHO Surgical Safety Checklist is taken up around the world. Their work has meant that pulse oximeters are available at low cost through the charity, which has now distributed more than 20,000 units.

Isabeau was a founding member of the Safe Anaesthesia Liaison Group and first editor of its patient safety update. By reviewing a national incident reporting system, Isabeau provided essential learning opportunities to all anaesthetists in the UK and globally.

Dr Iain Wilson – Great Britain and Ireland

Dr Iain Wilson

Dr Iain Wilson worked for 36 years as a clinical anaesthetist including additional roles such as Joint Medical Director and Director of Medical Education and retired in 2016. He worked as a lecturer in anaesthesia in Zambia during his training, an experience that had an important influence throughout his career.

Dr Wilson helped devise the AAGBI Uganda Fellowship, an innovative project to support physician anaesthesia training, which helped to transform anaesthesia services in Uganda. He developed the concept for the SAFE courses (Safer Anaesthesia from Education), initially obstetric anaesthesia, then paediatric anaesthesia, and most recently the SAFE Operating Room course. More than 100 SAFE courses have now been delivered as a hugely successful joint venture with the WFSA. He has also contributed through international work with the WFSA and was a special advisor to the WHO during the development of the Surgical Safety Checklist.

He was President of the AAGBI from 2010-12 and led a strategic reorganisation, contributing in many areas of anaesthesia care as a national leader. He was awarded their Gold Medal for innovation, only one of 6 recipients of this honour. He is co-editor of 5 books, the most popular of these being the Oxford Handbook of Anaesthesia. Iain has championed the publication of quality usable education materials and in 1992, started the free journal Update in Anaesthesia. He joined the WFSA Publications Committee, and served as Chair from 2004-2012 and developed the international distribution networks for the journal and translation into Spanish, Russian and Chinese, also developing the WFSA book donation scheme. In 2006 Dr Wilson developed the online ‘Anaesthesia Tutorial of the Week’, now a major output of the WFSA, read in more than 120 countries.

Dr Wilson was another of the founding trustees of Lifebox. In 2016 he was awarded a grant from the Gates Foundation to design a paediatric oximeter probe, coordinating developmental work in Malawi and Bangladesh along with Dr Isabeau Walker.