Joanne Jene, MD, graduated from the OHSU School of Medicine in 1960, and then went east to complete an internship at Philadelphia General Hospital a year later. She came back to OHSU and completed her residency in Anesthesiology & Perioperative Medicine (APOM) in 1963. We caught up with Dr. Jene recently to gain insight on her career as an anesthesiologist, international medical volunteer and respected physician activist as professional and legislative liaison at Oregon Anesthesiology Group, PC.
Why did you choose OHSU for your residency, and what did it provide you?
I elected to return to Oregon for residency because of the reputation of the University of Oregon (precursor to OHSU) Department of Anesthesiology then chaired by Frederick Haugen, MD, who trained with the pioneers and leaders of modern-day anesthesia. His philosophy was to provide a broad opportunity to understand and practice the best anesthesia service to patients and surgeons alike, and to become leaders in the evolving specialty. The residency provided experience in all aspects of our specialty with rotations to the children’s hospital (Doernbecher), the Oregon TB hospital and both the Multnomah County and newly opened OHSU teaching hospitals. I feel very privileged to have gone through this department.
You’re very active in health care legislation, both locally and nationally. What brought about your interest in legislative advocacy?
The late Senator Hatfield was a mentor while I attended Willamette University in Salem, and later, he always made it a point to meet personally with me and the Oregon delegation of the American Society of Anesthesiology when we travelled to Washington, DC for our annual Legislative Conference. In med school I was a part of the Student American Medical Association (now AMSA). I’ve always attempted to participate in committees in order to share issues and solutions as a member and representative from our specialty. Health care is a dynamic sport and we must be prepared to be winners for our patients and the specialty of Anesthesiology.
What is the physician’s role in the health reform dialogue?
All physicians must be willing to take time to understand the issues, participate in his or her own community, specialty society and state and national professional organizations to better understand the “other” points of view in order to share ideas and become a part of the solution.
How have volunteer activities played into your career?
I was on the first educational hospital ship to go by invitation to developing countries to teach and heal as part of Project HOPE in 1964, when we went to Ecuador. I was so impressed with the opportunity to work with developing countries and provide anesthesia and participate in the ongoing teaching program established by the Project HOPE teams. I made it a point to become a volunteer whenever possible, so I went on additional missions to West Africa, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Grenada and three missions to the Republic of China.
APOM has a “Joanne Jene Award” for faculty excellence in clinical teaching to rotating medical students. How does it feel to have an award in your name?
I was totally shocked when Jeff Kirsch [MD, Chair of APOM] said, “We’re going to name an award after you.” I appreciate it very much, and I’ve been able to go to many of the APOM graduations. It’s been very rewarding to meet some of the recipients of the award.
What advice would you give to new residents?
Anesthesiology is and will continue to be a dynamic and rewarding specialty. Medicine as we know it will change but a career in health care is one of the most valuable and rewarding careers in which to be engaged. Consider yourself fortunate. Strive to be the best physician, citizen, parent, partner that you can, in order to make Oregon, your life and the world a better place.
Pictured above: (Top) Dr. Jene was the first female anesthesiologist at Legacy Emanuel Hospital, where she practiced for over 40 years; (Below) Dr. Jene (center) with her fellow Class of 1960 alumni at a recent reunion.