Sadly, Dr. Dolly D. Hansen passed away last weekend. As many of you know, Dr. Hansen was the recipient of the first CCAS Lifetime Achievement Award at our Annual Meeting in March 2021. The CCAS also has a fund set-up in Dr. Dolly Hansen’s name to help promote the future of our specialty through education and research. This fund awarded its first research award this year.
No one feels the loss of Dr. Dolly Hansen more than Dr. Kirsten Odegard, who holds the Dr. Dolly D. Hansen Professor Chair in Pediatric Anesthesiology at Boston Children’s Hospital (BCH). Please read Dr. Odegard’s wonderful tribute to Dr. Hansen below.
Mark Twite, MA, MB, BChir, FRCP
It is with a heavy heart and profound sadness that I write to share with you that Dolly passed this weekend.
The passing of Dr. Dolly Hansen, “the Mother of Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesia,” leaves a tremendous void in the field of pediatric cardiac anesthesia and pediatric cardiac surgery. Dolly touched and helped countless children with congenital heart disease, she more or less gave her entire life to BCH and to the field of pediatric cardiac anesthesia. Dolly was also a very loyal friend and very special mentor to so many of us.
For those of you who didn’t have the privilege of knowing Dr. Hansen personally: Dr. Dolly Hansen was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, in 1935, she was legally blind due to retinopathy of prematurity. Despite her handicap, Dolly raced through her education in Denmark without any issues. She came to BCH in 1971 for a one-year pediatric cardiac fellowship. The plan was to return to Copenhagen, but Dr. Hansen never left BCH. Dolly first worked with the pioneer, Dr. Gross, and later with Dr. Castaneda, who introduced complete repairs in infancy. Dr. Hansen gave anesthesia to neonates in the hyperbaric chamber in the subbasement, by herself where no one could come and help. She did the first patient undergoing circulatory arrest at BCH, with no prior explanations or guidance. Dr. Castaneda just told her that “we are using circulatory arrest tomorrow,” and that was it. Dolly had to figure it all out by herself. She went to the local store and bought a big enough plastic bucket, so that they could submerge the baby in ice.
Dr. Hansen also did the anesthesia for the first patient with HLHS undergoing a stage 1 repair, with Dr. Bill Norwood. On the day prior to surgery, Dr. Hansen was told: “we are repairing a patient with HLHS tomorrow,” with no further explanation. Remembering this was a fatal disease until then, and only diagnosed after the neonates died, Dr. Hansen stepped up and figured out what was best for the neonates. These are just a couple of innovations Dr. Dolly Hansen was instrumental in developing.
Dolly retired in 2001 and moved back to her native Denmark in 2016, where she spent the last years of her life.
Not only was Dr. Hansen an outstanding physician, she was also one of the first female pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists. Dr. Hansen opened the door for many other female anesthesiologists to follow in her footsteps, and she set a very high bar for all of us to follow; almost unreachable.
Dr. Dolly Hansen, the “Mother of Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesia,” played a major role in moving the whole field of pediatric cardiac anesthesia forward, for which she was awarded the CCAS Life Time Achievement Award just this last April, and for which she will always be remembered.
Thank you Dolly, and Farewell, we will always remember you!