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Remembering a Founder: Ake Grenvik, MD, PhD, MCCM

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Ake Grenvik, MD, PhD, MCCM, a founding member of the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM) and one of the earliest pioneers of critical care, died on September 5, 2021. He was 92.

He will be remembered as a visionary. “Ake was instrumental in establishing how critical care medicine is taught, how intensive care professionals work together, and how patients are treated today in intensive care units around the world,” said SCCM President Greg S. Martin, MD, MSc, FCCM.

A native of Sweden, Dr. Grenvik graduated from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Following residencies in general and cardiothoracic surgery in Sweden, he spent three years in clinical research studying the effects of mechanical ventilation on respiration, circulation, and metabolism, which led to a doctorate degree at Uppsala University in 1966. He then came to the United States to train in anesthesiology and critical care medicine. He became professor of anesthesiology, founding and heading the Division of Critical Care at the University of Pittsburgh and working with SCCM founder Peter Safar, MD, MCCM. He remained a leading faculty member and mentor at the University of Pittsburgh until he retired in 2011.

In February 1970, Ake was an anesthesiologist working at the University of Pittsburgh when he joined about 30 other physicians in Los Angeles “to combine thoughts, plans, and experiences which would help bring order to the new field of ‘critical care medicine.’” That meeting laid the groundwork for what would become the Society of Critical Care Medicine, and Dr. Grenvik remained dedicated throughout his life to the organization’s mission and vision.
In that same year, Drs. Grenvik and Safar helped draft the first guidelines for critical care units. At the time, such standards were not common; physician practice was viewed as sovereign and sacred, and unlikely to be “guided.” The idea of a multiprofessional, multidisciplinary approach to care, guided by standards, was a novel approach led by visionaries such as Dr. Grenvik.

“For all his accomplishments as a legend and giant in the field, Ake will be remembered for his pioneering vision to rigorously train the entire professional critical care team to work together and deliver the highest-quality, humanistic, and patient- and family-centered care,” said Dr. Martin.

Ake Grenvik, MD, PhD, MCCM, (center) pictured in 2012 being inducted into the American College of Critical Care Medicine as a Master of Critical Care Medicine.

Dr. Grenvik was the first SCCM Membership Committee chair and went on to serve as its seventh president from 1977 to 1978. He presided over SCCM’s first freestanding educational meeting, delivering a presidential address focused on creating a critical care specialty, an effort he successfully championed.
In 2000, SCCM awarded Dr. Grenvik its Lifetime Achievement Award. For his sustained and global contributions to the field, Dr. Grenvik was inducted into the 2012 inaugural class of Masters of Critical Care Medicine by the American College of Critical Care Medicine.

Ake is preceded in death by his wife, Inger, who was also considered a stalwart and loyal volunteer of SCCM. The couple are survived by three children: Anders, Monica, and Stefan. Their son Christer died in 1989 of a brain tumor while he was an anesthesiology resident. The couple subsequently founded the SCCM Grenvik Family Award for Ethics to honor their son’s deep interest in ethics and end-of-life care.

Ake had been living in Houston with his daughter Monica and her husband, Mike McGinley. He enjoyed swimming, getting up early, and taking walks.

Read the memoriam written by Michael R. Pinsky, MD, CM, Dr(HC), FAPS, FCCP, MCCM, published in Critical Care Medicine. As the critical care community mourns this loss, the Society invites you to honor his contributions through your personal remembrances. Share your memories of Dr. Grenvik below.

In lieu of flowers or gifts, the family has asked that donations be made to the Grenvik Family Award for Ethics Fund. Donations can be made by contacting SCCM Customer Service at +1 847 827-6888 or via When submitting a donation online, select “Grenvik Family Award for Ethics” from the dropdown menu. The Grenvik family will be notified of all donations, and donors will receive a letter acknowledging their gift.

Remembering Ake Grenvik


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Posted: 9/9/2021 | 0 comments

Knowledge Area: Professional Development and Education 

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