Published January 16, 2017 v 11:39 am | category  informationPrint

In Memoriam Professor Riku Aantaa: 1959- 2016

The Finnish anaesthesia society and the international paediatric anaesthesia community are greatly saddened by the death of Professor Riku Aantaa who was a much loved and admired Professor at the University of Turku and Turku University Hospital. Riku was born in Turku to a family of doctors. Inspired by his parents’ careers Riku entered Turku University to study medicine in 1978. After graduation in 1984 he decided to specialize in anaesthesia and intensive care and later became interested in paediatric anaesthesia.

Riku had an excellent career. He was a skilled clinician and was also a dedicated and tireless contributor to the development of the quality of care in his department at Turku University Hospital. He served for 10 years as the chief administrative medical officer of the surgical, pain and intensive care division. Riku also devoted his free time to voluntary missions to developing countries /under the auspices of/as a member of/the Smile Network International to provide anaesthesia to children undergoing cleft lip and palate surgery.

In addition to his clinical work Riku was involved in the development of dexmedetomidine, a new molecule that was developed in Finland for anaesthesia and intensive care. He wrote his theses on dexmedetomidine (Dexmedetomidine, an α2-adrenoceptor agonist, as a premedication for minor surgery) in 1991. Riku undertook and collaborated on a number of clinical and non-clinical research projects concerning the drug and later acted as a medical adviser to the Orion Pharma medical company. During recent years, dexmedetomidine has become the drug of choice for sedation in intensive care and it is also a widely used drug in anaesthesia.   

Riku published more than 70 original articles and supervised seven PhD students. He was named an Associate Professor of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care of the University of Turku in 1998 and Professor in 2015. His special interest was the quality of training of residents, which he improved remarkably. He was widely recognised as a gifted lecturer and received numerous international invitations.

In 2003, Riku became a member of the Executive Committee of the Finnish Society of Anaesthesiologists and served for five years, two of which were as the President of the society. He was a member of the Executive Committee of the Scandinavian Society of Anaesthesia and Intensive Care (SSAI) from 2005 to 2008 and he was an active member of the steering committee of the SSAI training programme in paediatric anaesthesia and intensive care for several years. Riku was also a member of the Executive Committee of the European Society of Paediatric Anaesthesia (ESPA) from 2012 to 2016.

Riku was an excellent cook and enjoyed preparing meals for his family and friends. He loved to sail with his family in the amazing archipelago of Turku. He was also fascinated by mountain hiking in Lappland and downhill skiing in the powder snow of Japanese skiing resorts, which was where he travelled to every winter. He also loved all forms of classical music.

Riku was a genuinely nice man who will be sorely missed by his many friends and colleagues in Europe and elsewhere. With the death of Riku, paediatric anaesthesia has lost a great ambassador and researcher who will be remembered by his friends for his loyalty, generosity and good sense of humour. Riku is survived by his wife Paula and three sons Akseli, Lauri, and Niilo, and four beloved grandchildren.

We will always remember Riku with the greatest affection.

Pertti Suominen
Per-Arne Lönnqvist
Tuula Manner

Colleagues and friends