Subspecialty News: What Is AUA?

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January 1, 2014 Volume 78, Number 1
Subspecialty News: What Is AUA? Thomas J.J. Blanck, M.D., Ph.D., President-Elect
Association of University Anesthesiologists

AUA logo

The Association of University Anesthesiologists (AUA) was formed in 1953 to foster the growth of research and the exchange of new ideas for those in the academic community. The AUA’s mission is the advancement of the art and science of anesthesiology by:

1. The encouragement of its members to pursue original investigations in the clinic and in the laboratory;

2. The development of the method of teaching (anesthesia);

3. Free and informal interchange of ideas.


Who are members, how does one become a member, and how do we go about accomplishing our mission?


Prior to answering those questions, we would like to reflect on the founding of AUA. The association evolved from the discussions of four principle figures in academic anesthesia: Drs. Austin Lamont and Robert Dripps at the University of Pennsylvania, Harry Beecher, M.D. at Harvard, and Emmanuel Papper, M.D. at Columbia. An interesting and provocative summary of the activities surrounding the formation of AUA can be found in Dr. Papper’s recollection of activities of the early 1950s that culminated in the formation of AUA.1 While the motivation of the founders was largely to coalesce an academic community and develop an informal mechanism for the presentation of research and exchange of ideas, the real impetus of forming a separate university group was driven by economic concerns, and concerns about potential constraints placed upon university anesthesiologists by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) and ASA. The American Medical Association had developed the HESS report in 1950.2 It was interpreted by ASA and the ABA that any anesthesiologist who was paid by salary was unethical. This was of obvious concern to many university anesthesiologists and led to passionate exchange between the four original AUA founders. Ultimately, along with four other university anesthesiologists, they decided to form an organization for the presentation of research and allow for the discussion of educational practices and administrative issues related to university anesthesiology. The organization, which first met on May 9, 1953, in Philadelphia, was named the Association of University Anesthetists, later to be changed to the Association of University Anesthesiologists.3 The next meeting was held in Boston in 1954, hosted by Dr. Beecher, the Dorr Professor of Anesthesia Research, and consisted of 36 members.


There were 36 AUA members compared to 4,547 ASA members in 1954, a ratio of 0.0079. Today there are 629 AUA members and 30,462 active ASA members, a ratio of 0.021, demonstrating a larger increase in academic anesthesiologists relative to overall practitioners of anesthesiology. Of course, the majority of AUA members are also ASA members. Unfortunately, we do not have comparable numbers for other specialties; the academic community remains small but now plays major roles in the ABA and ASA, indicating that the early concerns of the AUA founders were not relevant to our times. Today, AUA consists of 629 members whose ranks include assistant professors, associate professors and professors. In order to become a member, one must be nominated in a letter by a current AUA member and have a seconding nomination in letter form from another member who is preferred to be from a different institution than the candidate; the letters must be submitted electronically. In addition, the names of five additional AUA members must be submitted as references. The exact membership process can be seen at Criteria for election to AUA require a faculty appointment at a medical school and recognized productivity as an investigator or educator.


How have we gone about fulfilling our mission? The first has been to expand membership. Prior to 1971, the upper limit of membership was 100, it was then increased to 300, and now has no limit. We increased that number, with no cap, and have also expanded the purview to include those individuals who are outstanding educators. The annual meeting, which has been held at a host institution, includes the opportunity for outstanding residents and outstanding junior faculty to give oral presentations to the entire membership in attendance. This is a rare and somewhat daunting opportunity, but it gives great exposure to promising new scientists and educators. The program also includes panel presentations organized by the AUA Scientific Advisory Board and the Educational Advisory Board, a president’s panel and presentations sponsored by the host institution. Host presentations have been quite varied, from research presentations by their own faculty to presentations by eminent scholars at their university, but outside the field of anesthesiology. Posters submitted by members and guests are hung for the entire meeting, and ample time between oral sessions is available for member lead discussions at each poster. Besides the formal presentations, we attempt to retain informality and exchange of ideas with an opening reception, informal breakfasts and lunches, and a reception on the last evening of the meeting.


The aim of the founders was a willingness to present and exchange ideas. While a larger membership has limited informality, the opportunity to interact with junior and senior faculty and a willingness to expose oneself to the critique of one’s colleagues sets the tone of AUA meetings.

Thomas J.J. Blanck, M.D., Ph.D. is Professor of Anesthesiology, Professor of Neuroscience and Physiology, NYU School of Medicine, NYU Langone Medical Center, New York, New York.


1. Papper EM. The origins of the Association of University Anesthesiologists. Anesth Analg. 1992;74(3):436-453.

2. Editorial: the Hess Report and what it means. Calif Med. 1950; 73(2):192-193.

3. Hamilton, W.K. Editorial: The Origins of the Association of University Anesthesiologists. Anesthesia and Analgesia 1992;74:325-6.