Ryan Gamlin, M.S. and Joy Wang, M.S. University of Cincinnati College of Medicine [email protected]; [email protected]
Ask a layperson what an anesthesiologist does and you’re likely to be told that they “put you to sleep.”
Ask an outpatient medicine nurse and you might get a secondhand joke like, “the ABCs of anesthesia are airway, breathing and crossword puzzle.”
Misconceptions about anesthesia, anesthesiology and anesthesiologists abound among patients and in popular culture, but I (Ryan) was even more surprised to hear “it must be awesome to get paid to do nothing” from a fellow first-year medical student after I’d told her that I am interested in the specialty.
These misperceptions of anesthesia – a specialty that requires critical thinking in life-or-death situations and a mastery of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology – have unfortunately at times been fostered within the medical community. Also, if current medical students do not understand what the specialty entails, the challenge in educating the public will only be doubly difficult.
Anesthesiologists are moving beyond their historical role as the “internists of the operating room.” Increasing numbers of anesthesiologists choose to subspecialize in critical care medicine, a model well established around the world. Some lead hospital and health system administration and quality improvement (our home department’s chair was recently named chief medical officer of our health system) or are thought- leaders in health policy. And clinically, anesthesiologists are the driving force behind a reimagined future of surgical care in the Perioperative Surgical Home model.
While preclinical medical students are wise to keep an open mind about their future professional direction and eventual choice of specialty, if you are interested in becoming a leader in your field, we hope you’ll join us in exploring the specialty... and in educating your classmates!