Mary Avanis

IMG_2738 img_0051 Name: Dr Mary Avanis

Event: The North Thames Anaesthetic Meeting



In January this year delegates at the North Thames Anaesthetic Meeting (NTAM) donated over £500 to support safer surgery in low-resource settings. This annual meeting aims to update attendees on developments relevant to everyday anaesthesia.

Our good friend Dr Mary Avanis, ST7 Anaesthetics at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) gave a Lifebox presentation at the workshop, we recently caught up with her to find out more.

What motivated you to support Lifebox?

Although I had previously heard about Lifebox, I must admit that I did not have a full understanding of the organisation up until May 2014, when I was fortunate to be part of a team of anaesthetists and midwives led by Dr Keith Thomson, visiting Freetown in Sierra Leone. There we delivered teaching to nurse anaesthetists. We were joined by an FY2, Dr Adam Beebeejaun who was doing a Lifebox follow-up project. During the programme we also delivered teaching on the use of the Lifebox pulse oximeter. Finally, we also had the opportunity to visit one of the capital’s hospital – the Princess Christian Maternity Hospital (PCMH).

I was moved by the enthusiasm and engagement of the candidates and their thirst for knowledge. The feedback on the pulse oximeter included multiple stories of how they felt it enabled them to deliver safer care to their patients. I witnessed behaviours and read stories suggesting this was indeed very true! I am now a massive fan of the Lifebox Foundation and greatly believe in their mission of making surgery safer globally by providing equipment, education and training- starting with the pulse oximeter!

What does safe surgery mean to you?

I think that ‘Safe Surgery’ is a basic requirement, a basic standard that every patient deserves and has the right to expect, regardless of where they are undergoing their surgery – high or low resource setting. Although resources do play a part, it is so much more about education, communication and attitudes. Evidence would suggest that Lifebox has put safe surgery in the forefront of the global community and things are finally starting to change for the better.

You gave a presentation about Lifebox at this year’s NTAM how did the attendees respond?

NTAM is an annual general anaesthesia and ITU update meeting, with approximately 75 delegates. In January 2015, I gave a presentation on Lifebox, how it started, what their mission is and what they have achieved so far. In addition, I talked about our trip to Sierra Leone and the Lifebox follow-up project. I also showed the delegates the pulse oximeter.

The attendees responded very positively, many had already been involved in raising money for Lifebox in the past. However, much like myself previously, some reported having not realised the full extent of the charity’s work – i.e. the education and follow-up involved, in addition to the fact that the pulse oximeter is merely the beginning. The donations were generous and were able to raise money for more than two pulse oximeters! I hope I have made more Lifebox fans!