LETTER TO EDITOR
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|Year : 2022 | Volume
| Issue : 112 | Page : 30--31
In Memoriam. Ann-Christin Johnson (Annki), November 7, 1955 to April 25, 2021
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, Georgia, US, National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati (OH), USA
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, Cincinnati (OH)
|How to cite this article:|
Morata T. In Memoriam. Ann-Christin Johnson (Annki), November 7, 1955 to April 25, 2021.Noise Health 2022;24:30-31
|How to cite this URL:|
Morata T. In Memoriam. Ann-Christin Johnson (Annki), November 7, 1955 to April 25, 2021. Noise Health [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Aug 14 ];24:30-31
Available from: https://www.noiseandhealth.org/text.asp?2022/24/112/30/345958
Ann-Christin Johnson (Annki), November 7, 1955 to April 25, 2021
Sitges, Spain, 1989, a time when one could travel for conferences. Two doctoral candidates, women from very different countries and backgrounds trying to start their careers in science, walked into a conference hall for the second meeting of the International Neurotoxicology Association. Both had decided to investigate a topic that was obscure at the time: Does the widely used solvent toluene impair hearing and does it exacerbate the harm caused by noise? Ann-Christin Johnson, or Annki, was examining such effects in experimental animals. I had just completed data collection with Brazilian workers. She was reserved. I was not. I was in her face, with so many questions! Fortunately, she tolerated my excessive effusiveness. Thus, began a beautiful friendship and productive professional alliance.
Annki received a Master of Pharmacy and a Master of Toxicology and then earned her PhD in Medical Science. Luckily for the field of hearing research, Annki devoted her career to the missions of occupational health and audiology. We completed our doctoral work a few months apart from each other early in the 1990s, and our findings bolstered each other. The evidence generated by our respective theses confirmed the ototoxicity of toluene. Her robust series of experiments demonstrated a synergistic interaction with noise. The variability in the determinants of hearing loss among humans makes it hard to be assertive regarding the type of interaction, but certainly the combination of the two agents was associated with an undeniably higher than expected prevalence of hearing loss. Soon we were coauthoring critical review papers and applying for funding to conduct research together. We were successful and had the opportunity to work together on a field study that was a cornerstone to demonstrating that styrene is ototoxic.
In 1999, Annki accepted the position of Associate Professor in the Department of Clinical Science, Intervention and Technology of the Karolinska Institute (KI) in Huddinge. She relished mentoring young students and scientists. She respected the individuality of the graduate students while instilling in them a high degree of professionalism. Similarly, colleagues knew they could approach her for private, helpful advice and direction before submitting articles, ideas, or presentations to larger audiences.
Her career started at the National Institute for Working Life (Arbetlivsinstitutet) in Solna, Sweden, formerly known as the National Institute of Occupational Health, formerly known as the National Board of Occupational Safety and Health, which had merged with the National Institute of Occupational Medicine. In December 2006, after a series of initiatives to “re-invent” the institution, the newly elected government closed the institute, despite five decades of internationally recognized high quality and highly relevant research. The contraction in Sweden’s research capacity in the fields of occupational health and life quality at work was estimated to be between 20% and 25%. It is to Annki’s great credit that within this atmosphere of constantly changing whims and priorities for the various incarnations of the Institute that she continued to conduct groundbreaking research.
As conditions at the Institute worsened, Annki persevered. Moreover, she extended her supportive attitude by providing assistance and support to her colleagues. Despite professional turmoil, Annki was generous with her time and knowledge, while making significant, real-life contributions to the development of the research area of ototoxic environmental and occupational chemicals. She published some 28 papers in high-impact peer-reviewed journals, but these do not encompass the breadth and reach of her work, since some of them happened in support of standards development.
Almost a decade after we completed our doctoral work, there were still few research groups across different countries studying the ototoxicity of chemicals found in the environment or at work. Annki and I met many of them through the European Commission Concerted Action Protection Against Noise, directed by Dr Deepak Prasher from the University College London. We helped him apply to the European Commission 5th Framework Programme for support for the research project NoiseChem. That successful initiative allowed leading researchers in the field to meet regularly and coordinate our actions in the spirit of collaboration rather than competition. It provided much needed motivation and expedited research progress in this area. NoiseChem resulted in several highly influential publications that affected national and international occupational safety and health legislation, policies, and standards.
And there is more. In addition to her work on the auditory effects of solvents, she also conducted research on nonauditory effects of solvents, genetics of hearing loss, beliefs and attitudes regarding the risk of hearing loss, noise and hearing loss among jet pilots, intervention effectiveness of hearing conservation practices among the Swedish armed forces, risk factors for hearing loss from a longitudinal twin study, demographic data, determinants of severe-to-profound hearing impairment, and benefits of audiological rehabilitation. Each of these publications represents a significant extension of our knowledge in the field of audiology.
Not too long after Annki’s professional situation reached a calmer, welcome stability, Annki was diagnosed with advanced breast cancer in around 2004. Despite the hardships of the disease and treatment, again, she persisted to work. But she also took the time to enjoy life outside work and spend time with her cherished grandson, Samuel.
Annki made many seismic advances in her field of research. Remarkably, all Annki’s accomplishments were accompanied by unique kindness. Her striking intellect, the warmth of her heart, and deep commitment to helping others will continue to inspire those of us who were lucky to have known her. She is survived by her loving husband Thomas, their son Daniel, who is a teacher, and daughter-in-law Chin. And as if her friendship and collegiality weren’t enough − and they were − Annki and I shared the joy of having the same birthday. I will continue to toast to her, as I have for the past 32 years, thankful that I had the great privilege of knowing Annki as a beloved friend.
Thais Morata, PhD
Representative of Affiliated Societies
International Society of Audiology