Anesthesiology, especially neuroanesthesia, lost a wonderful and talented champion on January 10, 2011 with the demise of M. Jane Matjasko. An extraordinarily talented clinician, Jane Matjasko strove every day of her rich career in anesthesiology to be an exceptional teacher and mentor, a wise administrator, and a superbly effective leader.
Born the eldest of 6 children in Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania, to a family of very modest means, Jane excelled academically. She won a full scholarship to Mercyhurst College, in Erie, PA and then attended the Woman's Medical College of Philadelphia (now Drexel University School of Medicine), where she finished first in her class and garnered multiple awards at graduation in 1968.
Beginning her Graduate Medical Education at the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC), in Baltimore, MD, Jane was soon attracted to the field of anesthesiology. At the University of Maryland, Jane's talents were recognized by the Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology, Martin Helrich, MD, and she collaborated to research on acid base balance and the respiratory system with Dr. T. Crawford McAslan, an early pioneer at the R. Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center, during her fellowship year.
Upon entering full time academic anesthesiology clinical practice, Jane recognized a “need to do it better,” at the University of Maryland in the very young subspecialty practice of neuroanesthesia. Early on, Jane set very high standards for the practice of neuroanesthesia, teaching residents the meticulous art as well as the science of the field. Her compassion and clinical care were highly regarded; the “red-haired” anesthesiologist was often requested for a case by returning patients, operating room staff, and medical school faculty. From the outset of her career, she practiced and encouraged the “team concept” for safe care of patients with an emphasis on communication among, and respect for, the roles of all members of the operating room, postanesthesia care unit, and critical care teams.
Coincident with the start of Jane's academic anesthesiology career, the discipline of neurosurgical anesthesia was beginning to organize on a national and international basis. Jane participated in the foundational meeting of the Neurosurgical Anesthesia Society [now the Society for Neuroscience in Anesthesiology and Critical Care (SNACC)], made regular contributions to the group's biannual bibliography, and served as SNACC's 10th President in 1984.1 Jane also contributed chapters to some of the first textbooks in the discipline of neuroanesthesia including early editions of Anesthesia and Neurosurgery (edited by JE Cottrell and H Turndorf: 1980), and Neuroanesthesia: Handbook of Clinical and Physiologic Essentials (Newfield and Cottrell: 1984).
A recognizable presence at countless SNACC annual meetings, Jane made a point of welcoming newcomers, facilitating introductions, and encouraging new researchers or presenters. Jane possessed an encyclopedic knowledge of the field and related disciplines, but always couched any comments or suggestions in a thoughtful and supportive manner. Most interested in aspects of monitoring, particularly for venous air embolism, she continually encouraged new science and knowledge within neuroanesthesia, joining the inaugural Editorial Board of the Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology in 1989.
In 1990, Jane was named Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at the University Of Maryland School Of Medicine. At the time, Jane was only the second woman in the United States to Chair an academic Anesthesiology Department. Under her leadership, the department expanded rapidly to incorporate multiple subspecialties and provide anesthesia, pain, and critical care services at 4 hospitals within the Baltimore area. Residency and fellowship offerings were enhanced and Jane built a solid research infrastructure, particularly with the recruitment of Gary M. Fiskum, PhD—a molecular biologist and translational scientist with an interest in traumatic brain injury—to UMMC in 1997.
In 1992, Jane was elected to the Board of Directors of the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). Only the second woman to hold such a position, Jane passionately worked to maintain and enhance anesthesiology as a specialty with high standards and expectations. Active on the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA)/ABA in-training council and a representative to the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and American Board of Medical Specialties for the ABA, Dr. Matjasko also became the first woman to serve as the Secretary of the ABA, a challenging and essential position of leadership for the specialty.
Although neuroanesthesia was her focus, Jane served the larger specialty of anesthesiology for many years as an editor of the annual ASA Refresher Courses publication, a member of the inaugural editorial board of the ASA Self-education and Evaluation program, an officer of the American Association of University Anesthesiologists, and a member of the Board of Directors of the Foundation for Anesthesia Research and Education. In addition, she was a popular panelist for the American Association of Medical Colleges' professional development programs for mid-level women faculty, imparting wisdom and practical advice on the “Role of the Department Chair,” and “mentoring for both men and women faculty members.”
Throughout all her endeavors, Jane was faithfully and generously supported by her spouse of 40 years, Shao Huang Chiu, MD, a well-respected orthopedic surgeon. Together, they raised their son, David, a talented collegiate lacrosse player, graduate of the University of Maryland Medical School, and now an anesthesiologist in North Carolina. Among her many pursuits outside of medicine, Jane made time to enjoy Suzuki violin lessons with David, co-ownership and management of a Bed and Breakfast, “Stone Manor,” in Frederick, Maryland, support of many aspects of arts, and reunions with her extended family.
Upon her retirement from the University of Maryland Medical Center and the Editorial Board of the Journal of Neurosurgical Anesthesiology in 2005, Jane and Shao Huang very generously endowed 2 professorships in the Department of Anesthesiology; one in support of education and the other in support of research. These gifts reflect much about Jane: her essentially generous spirit, her practical nature, and her love of, and vision for, the future of anesthesiology.
Jane Matjasko was brilliant, extremely hardworking, and fun. She had a talent for “getting the job done.” Many who worked with her will remember her warmth, willingness to listen, wonderful sense of humor, and the positive aspects that she brought to each encounter. An original personality with no peer, Jane will be well remembered for an extraordinary life well lived in the service of her family, friends, patients, students, faculty, and profession. She touched, guided, and supported so many in the world of neuroanesthesiology and well beyond with her unique spirit and gifts. We are blessed to have known her.
1. Albin MS. Celebrating silver: the genesis of a neuroanesthesiology society NAS—SNANSC—SNACC J Neurosurg Anesthesiol.. 1997;9:296–307