Erik Thaulow

Erik Thaulow
(© Marit Haugdahl)

Who are you and what do you do in your professional life?

I am Head of the Paediatric department for Heart, Lung and Allergies at Rikshospitalet University Hospital, Oslo. I am also a Professor in congenital heart defects at the University of Oslo. As a cardiologist, I have been working with young adults with congenital heart defects here at Rikshospitalet for many years.

What motivates you to work with patients with congenital heart defects?

Children with congenital heart defects have complex clinical pictures—and we can often make their lives better! I like being close to the patients and getting to know them. The contact with the parents of these children also greatly motivates me.

What do you like best about your job, and what would you like to improve?

The area of congenital heart disease has developed rapidly, and we see improvements all the time. I enjoy practical interventions and team work when many professions work together.

I would like to have more resources for buying state-of-the-art equipment. I would also use more resources to secure recruitment to the discipline of congenital heart disease.

What are the largest differences between treatment for congenital heart diseases in European countries?

I have been Chairman of the group within the European Society of Cardiology that wrote the guidelines for management of grown-up congenital heart disease (GUCH) a few years ago. I have participated in several, international studies on congenital heart disease and GUCH. As a referee in the Netherlands, Sweden and England, I have learnt that the similarities for treatment of this disease between countries are astounding. However, perhaps these countries, and the USA, emphasise strictly medical and technical issues. The strict medically requirements are most visible in the USA. I believe that in Norway, we tend to be more holistic in our thinking and more concerned about the family as a whole when treating patients with congenital heart diseases.

What is the largest obstacle for a family when having a child with congenital heart disease?

The families need to redefine what is important to them in life. They need to learn to look for the tokens of joy and the possibilities open to them. They must have a positive outlook, instead of focusing on how sick the child is. Human beings are not accustomed to this way of thinking. Actually, I thought this morning, when I felt worn out by getting up at 6 am, I am so lucky being healthy and having this job!

Do you have any special hobbies outside of work?

In my spare time, I like to spend time with my family enjoying nature. We go hiking in the mountains and stay by the seashore in the summer. I want to be present both physically and mentally when I am with my family. I simply want to be with them—and I want them to want to be with me!

The interview was conducted by Marit Haugdahl.