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In Memoriam: Dr Anneke Meursing (1946-2020)

It is with great sadness the WFSA notes the passing of their 13th President at her home in Bonaire, Dutch Antilles.

Anneke had decided at the age of eight that she wished to be a doctor working in Africa and she followed that dream with a passion. After medical school in Leiden, she specialised in Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in partnership with her first husband, Dick. In 1974 she travelled, with her husband, to Nkozi Hospital in Uganda where her employer was the Archbishop of Kampala. After two years there she returned alone to Holland and specialised anew in anaesthesia with the hope that this would allow her return to Africa one day.

Anneke was captivated by paediatrics and she was appointed Consultant Anaesthetist in 1981 to the Sophia Children’s Hospital, part of the University Hospital of Rotterdam. She found this work to be challenging and satisfying, and she stayed in that post for 18 years until 1999. She was able to travel to children’s hospitals in Philadelphia, Washington, Boston, Toronto, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Memphis, London and Liverpool. These visits set up life-long friendships with colleagues and allowed her to create an academic programme back in Rotterdam which had excellent research and educational opportunities for trainees. In 1983, Gordon Jackson Rees became visiting Professor from Liverpool and encouraged the Department to organise the First European Congress of Paediatric Anaesthesia in September of 1986.

In 1984, Anneke attended her first World Congress of Anaesthesiologists in Manila, the Philippines and was there invited to join the WFSA Paediatric Committee where she served from 1984-1992. The first manual on basic considerations for safe paediatric anaesthesia was created during this time for the WFSA and was freely distributed round the world. Anneke then received more national recognition when she was elected Secretary of the Dutch Society of Anaesthesiologists (Nederlandse Vereniging voor Anesthesiologie) in 1983 where she served for 8 years. She then became Secretary of the Organising Committee for the 1992 World Congress of Anaesthesiologists held in The Hague, the Netherlands. During this Congress she was elected to the Executive Committee of WFSA until 1996. In 1994 she took on the extra role of Assistant Secretary when she was asked by the current Secretary, Michael Vickers for help.

At the next World Congress, held in Sydney in 1996 she was elected Secretary and was asked to organise a proper WFSA Office for the growing organisation. Until this time the WFSA Office had rotated every four years, from Department to Department, with each new Honorary Secretary. The WFSA had used the kind help provided by John West, who was the Administrator for the European Academy, on a part time basis for urgent matters! Anneke, and the other WFSA Officers, appointed Karen McMurchy as their first full time administrator and she worked in Rotterdam for the first year as the WFSA had no premises until an office in Kingsway, Holborn, Central London was established in 1997-8.

Karen was to leave after a few years and Ruth Hooper took over as Administrative Manager in 2001 and then moved to a room in the premises of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland in Portland Place in 2003. The year 2000 was a momentous one for Anneke, she was appointed Associate Professor of Anaesthesia at the College of Medicine, Balantyre, Malawi by the Dutch Government and was re-elected Secretary of WFSA at the World Congress in Montreal, Canada. Her spare time was totally taken up by her WFSA work particularly when she became its first female President of WFSA, at the World Congress in Paris in 2004.

She stepped down from this position in 2008 in Cape Town and was then fortunate to meet the love of her life, Koos de Jong, who became her second husband. They oscillated their time between the Dutch Antilles and The Netherlands until Koos’s tragic death.

Anneke has rightly received many honours during her life from around the world. She was made an Honorary Member of the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, an Elected Fellow of the Royal College of Anaesthetists in London, an Elected Fellow of the College of Medicine, Anaesthesia, South Africa, and Honorary Member of the Nederlandse Vereniging voor Anesthesiologie, a Standing Member of the German Society of Anaesthesiologists, and an Honorary Member of the Association of Paediatric Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland, of the Federation of European Associations of Paediatric Anaesthesia and the European Society of Paediatric Anaesthesia.

She achieved many great things in her career in paediatric anaesthesia. If something was right in her view, she was always prepared to fight for it even in the face of considerable opposition. One of the most awkward of these for her was when she supported the work of nurse anaesthetists at the General Assembly in the Montreal World Congress against the traditional WFSA approach at that time which was for only medical anaesthesiologists. She was always forthright and honest in her views and this made her work in WFSA Committees difficult at times, but she never ceased to strive for excellence in care for those who were disadvantaged. During her Presidency there was the first World Congress on African soil, a source of great satisfaction to her.

In her later life she spent more and more time in Bonaire in the Antilles. She swam, took photographs, and relaxed for the first time in her life. Sadly, her health started to fail, and intractable pain soon became an intolerable constant feature in her life. Her death was the only release from this terrible affliction. Anneke achieved much in her life and has left this world a better place than it was when she arrived in it.

Dr DJ Wilkinson