FAER Speaks with Dr. Julie Huffmyer, 2020 FAER-ABA Research in Education Grant Recipient

May 20, 2021

Huffmyer, Julie

In the spring of 2020, Julie Huffmyer, MD, was awarded a FAER-ABA Research in Education Grant (REG). Co-sponsored by the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA), FAER-ABA REGs aim to advance the knowledge of anesthesiologists interested in the key elements of education in anesthesiology - curriculum, instruction, and assessment. Comprised of $100,000 in funding over a two-year period, Dr. Huffmyer’s FAER-ABA REG is titled “The Association of MOCA Minute® Performance on ASPIRE Clinical Metrics.”

Graduating from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in 2004, Dr. Huffmyer went on to complete her anesthesiology residency at the University of Virginia, where she has been a faculty member since 2008. In 2011, Dr. Huffmyer was appointed Associate Program Director of Anesthesiology, before becoming Residency Program Director in 2016.

Dr. Huffmyer was gracious enough to respond to a selection of questions about her FAER-ABA REG. FAER is pleased to share her responses with you below.

What led you to pursue anesthesiology as a specialty, and more specifically, what led you to pursue anesthesia research?

“Like most medical students, my understanding of what it meant to be an anesthesiologist was vastly different than what I learned about anesthesiology in medical school. My first career was as an ICU nurse, and I knew that I loved taking care of critically ill patients. I found the clinical OR environment incredibly stimulating and rewarding as I learned to manipulate physiologic variables in real time. Anesthesiology allowed me to be physician, ICU nurse, and pharmacist all in one role! At [the University of Virginia], as an anesthesia resident, I had the extraordinary opportunity to be taught by fantastic faculty who encouraged me to pursue academics. I was awarded participation in the FAER Resident Scholar Program (RSP) to attend the ASA’s annual meeting and present at FAER’s research symposium, during which I decided to pursue academic anesthesiology. I have always loved teaching and with the support of my mentor, Dr. Edward Nemergut, research in medical education has become the crux of an incredible career. As education researchers, we have an opportunity to develop and study novel methods for teaching in medicine.”

Please speak briefly on your FAER-ABA REG research.

“The aim of our study is to explore the link between the ABA’s longitudinal assessment component of the Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology®, the quarterly MOCA Minute questions, and clinical performance through use of Anesthesiology Performance Improvement and Reporting Exchange (ASPIRE) metrics. Our primary hypothesis is that annual MOCA Minute® composite performance (percent correct) is associated with composite ASPIRE clinical measure performance (percent compliant) for ABA diplomates. Ultimately in the future, by identifying which MOCA Minute items are most strongly associated with clinical performance ASPIRE metrics, we anticipate that it may be possible to provide targeted MOCA Minute question administration to anesthesiologists in order to improve the clinical practice of ABA diplomates.”

What value do you see in organizations like FAER and the ABA coming together in support of anesthesia research and those who conduct it?

“As a former FAER Resident Scholar, and now an awardee of the FAER-ABA REG, I am grateful for the missions and resources of both organizations that serve to push forward the academic nature and practice of our specialty of anesthesiology. The work of the ABA in certifying physicians is valuable and necessary to assure the highest standards of Diplomates of the ABA. FAER’s mission to develop the next generation of physician-scientists in anesthesiology is critical to the continued progress, development, and maintenance of the academic practice of anesthesiology. The FAER-ABA REG serves as a bridge between these organizations and their missions, allowing me to address an area of significant import by leveraging data provided by the ABA.”

Do you have any advice for others interested in pursuing anesthesia research and FAER grant funding?

“Find a great mentor and research group with whom to work through multiple projects over time.  Choose projects, of interest, that will have answerable/measurable outcomes and have a chance to make an impact. Much of what has been accomplished in education research has occurred due to perseverance in asking questions and developing ideas which then eventually become hypotheses and research projects. Some ideas will soar and produce impactful results, while others will be scrapped, but don’t give up just because the first project does not come to fruition.  Research in education is a long road, and it is important to stay the course for the long haul.”

FAER is a related organization of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). For 35 years, FAER has been dedicated to developing the next generation of physician-scientists in anesthesiology. Charitable contributions and support to FAER help fuel the future of anesthesiology through scientific discovery. Funding priorities include: Research, Education, and Training. FAER has awarded over $49 million in research grants and programs since 1986. To donate to FAER, visit FAER.org/donate.