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Ake Grenvik, MD, PhD retires from the Department of Critical Care Medicine

Wed, 09/30/2009

Ake N.A. Grenvik, M.D., PhD, FCCM, Distinguished Service Professor of Critical Care Medicine, Professor of Anesthesiology, Medicine & Surgery, retired on June 30, 2009 after 40 years of years of service to the critical care community and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center.

Ake Grenvik earned his Doctor of Medicine Degree at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm in 1956 and his PhD in physiology at University of Uppsala, Uppsala, Sweden in 1966. He trained in general surgery, thoracic and cardiovascular surgery, and anesthesiology in Sweden then came to Pittsburgh to join Peter Safar in 1968 becoming the first physician formally trained in critical care medicine. Shortly after he finished his training, Dr. Grenvik became the Intensive Care Unit Director at Presbyterian University Hospital. For 40 years he directed the Multidisciplinary Critical Care Training Program, the first and largest such program, and trained over 400 young physicians from multiple specialties in the practice of intensive care medicine. Dr. Grenvik provided in-hospital leadership to improve the quality of care in the ICU and developed a curriculum for fellowship training. Along with participating in developing the first board exam, he did research and published over 300 peer-reviewed articles and book chapters. He has made particularly important contributions in physiology, ICU development and administration, physician education, ethics, and end of life care. But most importantly, he inspired hundreds of young physicians to become intensivist clinicians and leaders in the critical care community.

While he advanced our ability to prolong life, Dr. Grenvik became concerned with ethical issues surrounding the end of life. Along with Peter Safar and coroner Dr. Cyril Wecht, Dr. Grenvik developed guidelines for the determination of brain death. He served as the Chair of the Ethics Panel for the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. He has made particular contributions in transplantation ethics, informed consent, and care of the terminally ill.

Dr. Grenvik is a founding member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). He has helped to define the clinical setting, including the physical space, the specialized nursing and critical care transport. All these activities allow physicians to provide modern ICU care. He continues to serve as coeditor of the SCCM's Textbook of Critical Care.

Dr. Grenvik’s expertise in physician education was instrumental in the development of the Peter M. Winter Institute for Simulation Education and Research (WISER). He served as the Research Director for the Institute until 2007. With his guidance and mentoring, WISER has become one the leading simulation centers in the world. Dr. Grenvik is also consultant for Laerdal Medical in Stavanger in Norway.

Ake Grenvik is one of the giants of Critical Care Medicine. He has received numerous honors and awards over the years, including lifetime achievement awards from the SCCM in 2000 and from the American Society of Critical Care Anesthesiologists in 2002. The Critical Care Department at the University of Pittsburgh has been fortunate to benefit from his experience and expertise for so many years. In his honor, the Ake and Inger Grenvik Critical Care Lectureship has been endowed through contributions from corporations, colleagues, alumni and friends for the past 15 years.

Dr. Grenvik presented a historic Critical Care Medicine Grand Rounds on September 18, 2008 entitled “40 years of CCM at Pitt.” This grand rounds lecture was followed by a formal dinner at the University of Pittsburgh University Club to celebrate his lifetime of CCM activities.  

What is he going to do in retirement is anybody’s guess. At 75, Ake made a tandem jump from 14,000 feet as a participant in the 2004 World Freefall Skydiving Convention in Rantoul, Illinois. He made a smooth landing. We wish him smooth landings in all his future pursuits.