Elisabeth Swensen is this year's Dandelion

Gunn Ma­rit Seberg About the author
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Eli­sa­beth Swen­sen. Pho­to: JNMA

Du­ring the Ni­dar­os Congress in Oc­to­ber this year, Eli­sa­beth Swen­sen (b. 1951), Chief Me­di­cal Officer in Sel­jord Munici­pality, received the Dandelion Award for 2011.

Swen­sen graduated from the Faculty of Me­di­cine in Oslo in 1980 and was certified as a spe­cia­list in fam­ily me­di­cine in 1994.

Each year du­ring Ge­ne­ral Prac­ti­ce Week (PMU) or the Ni­dar­os Congress, the Nor­we­gi­an Col­le­ge of Ge­ne­ral Prac­ti­ce announces the win­ner of the Dandelion Award. The award consists of a lithography by Bar­ba­ra Vog­ler and 20 000 Nor­we­gi­an kro­ner. The award is given to a gen­eral practitioner who has made a spe­ci­al contribution to the field. This contribution may have been made at the cen­tral or at the local level, quietly or in the me­dia, professionally or or­gan­isa­tion­al­ly, practically or theoretically.

The nomination for this year’s Dandelion Award sta­tes the fol­low­ing:

«Her work as gen­eral practitioner and Chief Me­di­cal Officer in a small, rural community in Eas­tern Nor­way for more than thirty years has es­tab­lished the legitimacy of her numerous initiatives, contributions, ideas and provocations. She has taken the floor in many fo­rums and has alw­ays defended her pos­ition well – be it as a board member of our pro­fes­sional asso­ci­ation, as edi­tor of Ut­pos­ten, as as­so­ci­ated edi­tor of the Jour­nal of the Nor­we­gi­an Me­di­cal As­so­cia­ti­on, as a member of the Work­ing Party of Rural Health of WONCA, as an or­ga­ni­ser and lecturer, as a contributor to the news me­dia and to EYR or as a su­per­vi­sor for a great number of re­si­dents and can­di­dates for specialisation in gen­eral prac­tice. She has achieved the unusual feat of remaining critical of es­tab­lished pos­itions while constantly being brought for­ward as the NMA?s re­pre­sen­ta­ti­ve in a variety of contexts, most recently in pro­fes­sional fo­rums discussing how prac­tices related to me­di­cal certification and emer­gency response are to be regu­lated. With a critical eye, she infused the thinking related to risk in me­di­cine with a new content in the early 1990s, and she was the first to chal­len­ge the revelation of truth when the EBM (Evidence-based-me­di­cine) wave reached our shores just before the turn of the mil­len­ni­um. Before rural me­di­cine became a familiar concept in this coun­try she saw the need for a debate on the health ser­vi­ces in rural Nor­way and for a description of how the ser­vi­ces pro­vided to the pub­lic are linked to social de­vel­op­ment in gen­eral. She also pi­on­eered the es­tab­lish­ment of the Nor­we­gi­an Cent­re for Rural Me­di­cine at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Tromsø, where she currently participates as a re­gio­nal coordinator and as a member of the steering group.

She is in favour of plans to downscale psych­iatry, she is an uncompromising de­fen­der of a wide nor­mal vari­ation in the life of humans as biological and psychological beings, and she claims that the GP should act as a guarantor who protects all pa­tients from being arbitrarily treated as ill. Anyone who has viewpoints reg­arding these is­su­es will not deny that her ar­gu­ments are well-founded and hard to refute.

Her abil­ity to ex­press herself cogently is enviable –and her clever turns of phrase can most often be tol­er­ated even by those who are the targets of her attacks when she is on warpath, which she occasionally is. Examples are easy to find; some of these include ma­jor is­su­es concerning regular salaries for Nor­we­gi­an GPs, the struggle against corruption and in­creasing commercialism in the health ser­vi­ces, and the use of Nor­dic languages, if at all pos­sible, when colleagues meet abroad.

When asked to make an intellectual or cre­ative contribution, she seldom declines – or perhaps she declines too seldom? But when she accepts, she is alw­ays up to stan­dards, regardless of whether this involves spending hours at the steering wheel, sleeping short nights and mastering the logistical chal­len­ges involved in a life with four chil­dren, as well as head­ing the municipal health ser­vi­ces and taking care of her own health as her primary areas of responsibility.

The dis­course on gen­eral prac­tice would not have been what it is with­out her. The Dandelion of the Year is Eli­sa­beth Swen­sen!»

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