January 1, 2013
Volume 77, Number 1
Subspecialty News: SOAP: Mothers and Babies Do Better With It
McCallum R. Hoyt, M.D., M.B.A., President Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology
Founded in 1968, the Society for Obstetric Anesthesia and Perinatology (SOAP) will be celebrating its 45th annual meeting this spring in Puerto Rico. Originally started as a way to provide like-minded individuals “a forum for discussion of problems unique to the peripartum period,” SOAP has grown in both size and purpose. Our mission statement envisions some lofty goals: “… to improve the pregnancy-related outcomes of women and neonates through the support of obstetric anesthesiology research, the provision of education to its members, other providers, and pregnant women, and the promotion of excellence in clinical anesthetic care.” Lofty though these goals may be, SOAP is achieving just that.
Staying true to our original statement of purpose, SOAP’s annual meeting program has always devoted significant time for individuals to present new or ongoing research for audience comment. As the meeting attendance grew and more submissions appeared from one year to the next, periodic requests for funding from SOAP began to occur. Also, a competition of the best research projects by a resident or fellow began and needed a way to fund the award money. In response, the SOAP leadership at the time began an endowment fund to support its commitment to obstetric anesthesia research. Today, the SOAP Endowment Fund continues to receive voluntary donations from members. That money is used to fund awards and projects that fit within our mission. The annual meeting sees between 200 and 300 abstract submissions, of which approximately half are research-based. Within the research category, there are several competitive award classifications with cash rewards supplied through the fund. Moreover, SOAP members with projects that focus on patient safety, education or outreach who are approved for financial assistance receive it from this same source.
Aside from the SOAP Endowment Fund, we offer a named research grant. The SOAP/Gertie Marx Education and Research Grant is the result of a directed gift from a long-time member. First offered in 2010, the bequest allows us to offer a two-year research grant total of $50,000 to young investigators. Applicants submit their proposals to a committee of seasoned obstetric anesthesia researchers who select the winner. The grant has two fundamental purposes: to assist in establishing the careers of future researchers in the field, and to expose them early in their career to the rigors of applying for advanced funding. The goal is to make them more likely to apply for Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research or NIH grants as their projects mature.
At the 2011 ASA annual meeting in Chicago, a few physician educators met to discuss how to get education to clinicians in remote areas. This physician group from the Anesthesia Informatics and Media Lab (AIM) of Stanford University envisioned an open-access, Web-based platform that would provide anesthesia educational content to others worldwide. After laying the foundation for this entity and naming it Anesthesia Illustrated (AI), they were officially inaugurated in March 2012. In that same month, SOAP agreed to have AI videotaped and post all lectures from the Sol Shnider Meeting, an obstetric anesthesia review course managed by SOAP.
All speakers were informed and signed releases. As of this writing, SOAP, through AI, has placed 35 lectures on open-access, of which eight are selected lectures from the annual meeting and the remainder from the Shnider Meeting. There have been 36,000 tracked viewings of these 35 lectures in six months! What AI has done to advance education access globally through the power of the Internet, and for SOAP’s education mission specifically, is truly a marvelous advancement. Although many have questions about such open access, SOAP believes this is an educational innovation that will grow in the future and plans to continue to work with AI to get educational products to those who cannot come to the experts. Both the SOAP website (www.soap.org) and AI (www.anesthesiaillustrated.com) have links to these lectures.
As yet another function of our educational mission, SOAP actively supports international outreach. We perform this through committee work and through collaboration with the non-profit organization Kybele (www.kybeleworldwide.org). Kybele’s mission is to improve “childbirth safety worldwide through educational partnerships.” Many SOAP members participate in outreach in developing countries through Kybele, where they educate local physicians in obstetric anesthesia topics and techniques, with positive results. In 2011, the first SOAP/Kybele International Outreach Grant was awarded with the specific intent of encouraging research to enhance the practice of obstetric anesthesia within and in collaboration with the host countries. Two projects are currently being funded in Ghana.
Some years ago, the SOAP Board considered the body of established core and specialized knowledge within the field of obstetric anesthesia and decided it should apply for fellowship accreditation. Alan C. Santos, M.D. chaired the task force and successfully led the process through the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Such an accomplishment acknowledges that our field has developed a unique body of knowledge that contributes to clinical excellence and warrants an accredited fellowship. As of July 2012, 11 fellowship programs were awarded such status and several more are either in the process or newly approved.
As is true with all fields, clinical excellence develops from a process of study, skill enhancement, and the understanding and prevention of adverse outcomes. Because adverse events should, by their very nature, be unusual, it can become difficult to detail, categorize and examine these events in adequate numbers. Similar to other subspecialties, SOAP started an adverse clinical outcomes database some time ago. Although several academic institutions participated, the numbers were low and exclusive of most private practices. Collection and collation of the data were also prohibitive with the available resources. Recognizing that such an outcomes database is necessary to improve clinical practices and decision-making, SOAP will be partnering with Richard Dutton, M.D. and the Anesthesia Quality Institute (AQI) to establish an obstetric anesthesia database. We are truly excited about this collaboration with ASA and AQI and hope it will encourage more comprehensive participation.
SOAP is committed to furthering the excellence of obstetric anesthesia practice whether in a large academic center or the smallest of labor units. The SOAP/Sol Shnider Meeting held in San Francisco every March is a refresher course meeting that keeps participants updated on all aspects of obstetric anesthesia care and necessary skills. The annual meeting this year will be held in Puerto Rico, April 25-28, 2013 and will be preceded on the 24th by a symposium, held entirely in Spanish, on obstetric topics for our Latin American colleagues. Staying true to our mission of research, education and clinical excellence, we hope you will join us at a meeting, on our website or as a member. SOAP is the source for obstetric anesthesia.
McCallum R. Hoyt, M.D., M.B.A. is Director, Gynecology and Ambulatory Anesthesia, Assistant Professor of Anaesthesia, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, Boston.
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