Patient Ombudsman Award for the best medical practice in the COVID-19 pandemic: Prof. Marianna Arvanitakis

In the organization of International Council of The Patient Ombudsman– worldwide reference network for Health Diplomacy and European Medical Association– the main association representing Medical Doctors in Europe supported the European Commission – Lifelong Learning Programme, and Under High Patronage of  His excellency Ambassador Dionyssios KALAMVREZOS was held the Award ceremony reception dedicated to

Prof. Arvanitakis Marianna, MD, Ph.D., the winner of the European Patient Ombudsman Award for the Best Medical Practice in the COVID- 19 pandemic. She was nominated together with the 378 colleges in the public call which ended in April 2021.

Dr . Vincenzo Costigliola, president of the European medicine association and  European Association for Preventive, Predictive, and Personalised Medicine highlighted that we are witnessing a dramatic situation in the hospitals and efforts from the doctors and nurses to provide healthcare to the patients.

The purpose of this award was to recognize a physician who has made significant contributions and efforts that have influenced positive change in the COVID 19 pandemic. We wanted to acknowledge the struggles and achievements while battling the pandemic in these unprecedented times while risking their health to save lives and preserve patients’ quality of life.  The selection award commission had the difficult task to choose only one winner, but Prof. Marianna Arvanitakis will be a strong voice for all medical doctors.

Devotion is loyalty to a promise, person, or mission. It means a person has to be willing to sacrifice and uphold the commitment even if the challenges are great, and all this together with extraordinary activities. In this difficult and unpredictable pandemic times pandemic she continued to work on the most demanding medical procedures such as endoscopy, putting herself at risk when most doctors refused to work on invasive procedures. She protected especially non- covid and chronic patients.

Doctor Arvanitakis’ life and career, have proven that when someone is devoted to something, with love and enthusiasm, commitment and loyalty, in her case the medicine, and the strong humanistic desire to assist others, the object of devotion becomes a part of one’s self.

She completed her medical studies within the Université Libre de Bruxelles and her GI training in the Erasme University Hospital under the guidance of Pr Jacques Deviere and Myriam Delhaye. Her Ph.D. thesis was focused on diagnostic and therapeutic aspects of pancreatic diseases and was completed in 2007.

Her clinical activity involves therapeutic endoscopy, pancreato-biliary diseases, and nutrition. She is currently a full professor of Gastroenterology at Erasme University, Bruxelles, and head of the Department of Nutrition and Pancreatology.

She also is a member of numerous scientific committees including the United European Gastroenterology (UEG), the European Society Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ESGE) and the European Society of Enteral and Parenteral Nutrition (ESPEN), the American Gastroenterology Association (AGA), and the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy (ASGE).

She has 134 publications in Pubmed with over 3600 citations and an H-index of 30. Prof. Arvanitakis knew that there is no success without hard work in the laboratory, in the library, or in front of a computer screen, perseverance in the long night hours in the hospital, passion to cure the patients, sacrifice of personal time and wishes, and respect and understanding to the people needing a helping hand.

Sometimes luck and coincidence, family tradition, play their role as driving force that catapults our life into success, as one could say for dr Arvanitakis, whose both parents were medical doctors. But as we said before all effort needs hard work, dedication, and perseverance.
Ηighly effective medical doctors have the enormous privilege of touching and changing lives.

But why is Dr. Arvanitakis a highly effective medical doctor?

A highly effective medical doctor should have resilient professionalism under an imperative core set of values, for the care of the most fragile in society.  The best medical doctors must synthesize conflicting and incomplete information to reach a diagnosis. Deal with uncertainty as protocols are great, but doctors often must work off-protocol in the best interests of the patient. Manage risk – many patients are alive today because doctors took risks, sharing information openly and honestly with their patients. Recognize that change both in medicine and society is constant, ensuring that those standards, which are immutable, are preserved while those that are simply a product of their time are consigned to history. Be approachable, confident, decisive, intelligent, interested, compassionate, and caring – being able to absorb people’s pain and anxieties without losing focus, treating patients as human beings rather than a symptom or collection of symptoms. Their integrity is without question. Take time to listen and communicate honestly and effectively with patients, relatives, staff teams, and others whilst putting everyone at ease. Respect for everyone’s capabilities and their contribution to the team. Knowing everyone’s name in the team regardless of their position. Being fair and non-judgmental.

To have technical skills, be competent, knowledgeable, using evidence-based practice. The ability to remain calm and proficient when under pressure and still make clear and timely decisions. Be trustworthy, loyal, dedicated,  reliable, respected rather than revered, and dedicated to upholding their Hippocratic Oath. Be a visionary leader who is confident about their standards and stands firm to uphold their and the team’s values and beliefs. Doctor Arvanitakis has all the above qualities.

Together collaboration and acting are the most important in crisis managment, and especially to merge medicine and law in health diplomacy which is today in the focus.

Prof. Erik Van dens Haute, Program director for Executive Master International Business Law – ULB reminds us of the importance of the protection of human rights, especially patient rights.

Jasna Karacic, Head of health diplomacy research unit and Patient Ombudsman pointed out how is important for health politics and diplomacy to listen and consult directly only doctors that work in the clinical settings because this is the only way to have a clear picture of the real situation in the hospitals and that As a part of health diplomacy we need to protect doctors first that they can protect their patients.