A Change of Presidency at EFNA – Farewell Ann and welcome Joke!

Left: Joke Jaarsma, new President at EFNA. Right: Ann Little, Past President at EFNA and Executive Director at IBE

Our recent General Assembly in Lisbon saw a change to the EFNA Board structure. Due to growing commitments within her own organisation (the International Bureau for Epilepsy), Ann Little has decided to step-down as President; handing the reigns to existing Board member Joke Jaarsma.
Joke is a Past President of the European Association for Restless Legs Syndrome (EARLS) and current Treasurer at the European Brain Council (EBC).

Ann’s presence will be missed tremendously by both the Board and staff.


Ann Little, on stepping-down as President of EFNA:

‘The decision to step down from the position as President of EFNA was not taken lightly. After five years on the board, three as EFNA President, I was privileged to be among a group of of dedicated and enthusiastic people whose knowledge, drive and commitment were inspirational. Nevertheless, with my own work at the International Bureau for Epilepsy ever expanding and with the breath and depth of EFNA activities also developing, it was becoming more difficult to continue in both roles in a way that did justice to both.

In leaving the board, I would like to extend my appreciation to my fellow board members and wish each one every success for the future. I thank Donna Walsh for her superb direction of EFNA as its Executive Director and Elizabeth Cunningham for her communications prowess. Both are invaluable members of the EFNA team.

While the decision to leave the board was difficult, I know that I am leaving it in good hands; Joke Jaarsma has enormous experience and understanding of the work of EFNA and the wider work of neurological associations. Add to that her diplomatic flair, her pragmatic approach and her charming manner and I know, without doubt, that EFNA has the perfect President.

My five years on the EFNA board have been a huge learning experience for me. I will miss the camaraderie of this inspirational group but the knowledge gained will never be forgotten. The friendships made will always be cherished, and the moments of laughter treasured.’

Joke Jaarsma, on accepting the Presidency of EFNA:

‘I am honored and humbled to accept the position of president of EFNA. I have been involved with EFNA work for some six years now, and under the inspiring leaderships of both Audrey Craven and later Ann Little, of course with the unequaled support and initiatives of Donna Walsh, EFNA has grown into the overall respected patient advocacy organisation that it is today. We are seen by the scientific community as well as by policy makers as a trustworthy and professional entity in the arena that we work in.

That is one reason why I decided, after thinking about this long and hard, to accept the position. But there is another reason: Over all these years I myself have been immensely inspired by the people working on EFNA’s Board. We are all volunteers, and all of us either suffer from a disease or have family suffering badly. And so all of us are very passionate about what we are doing. Which makes working for EFNA so great.

EFNA has brought me a lot as well personally. Through the work for EFNA I have been able to achieve things for RLS, my disease, which would not have been possible had EARLS continued working in more or less splendid isolation. I am indebted to EFNA.

Accepting this position makes me very happy. I promise everyone that I will do my utmost to serve EFNA and if possible prepare it for the future even more.

I want to thank Ann Little for the work over the past few years. She has been a wonderful and steady force for EFNA and she has done this in her very own way; calm, friendly, adequate. I have watched Ann over the years, had the occasional very pleasant personal talk with her, and saw her dedication to patient advocacy work. Watching her made me think that she actually was what we call in Holland the penetrating oil that makes everything run smoothly. Saying goodbye to Ann as EFNA president therefore fills me with sadness, but also with happiness for Ann, whose work for the ILE has become so burdensome that she will no doubt also enjoy leaving us because of that.’