Global Humanitarian Aid and Medical Missions

Originally included in my editorial for the November 2013 issue of ASRA News.

ASRA News Nov 2013In November 2013 issue of ASRA News, we feature two very special articles that touch on the common theme of global humanitarian aid and volunteerism.  Our Resident Section Committee article by Dr. Anish Doshi provides us with an overview of the paucity of pain management and palliative care services in the developing world.  As a new column for ASRA News, the Member Spotlight, we present the amazing work of Dr. Randy Malchow and his team in bringing regional anesthesia and perioperative pain management services and education to Kijabe Hospital in Kenya.

I should say that the contents of this editorial/blog are my own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official views of ASRA.  The subject of medical volunteerism and global humanitarian aid is important to me, having personally participated in multiple medical missions to underserved communities in the Philippines and Ecuador over the last decade.  Many of our ASRA members have dedicated their time and resources to similar causes at home and abroad, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) has its own Global Humanitarian Outreach (GHO) Program (http://www.asahq.org/GHO).  The statistics related to anesthesia and pain management in the developing world are quite shocking.  It is not uncommon for developing countries to have a ratio of less than 1 anesthesiologist for every 100,000 people!  In the realm of pain management and palliative care, the article by Dr. Doshi is particularly eye-opening and should serve as a strong motivator for our members to get involved in helping the underserved.  What is the best way to do that?

The GHO offers a search engine for ASA members to look up volunteer opportunities abroad http://www.asahq.org/GHO/Volunteer.aspx.  Not everyone can take weeks or months off work to travel to far-away places.  I have been fortunate in that my wife and I have been able to volunteer together—that is, until recently when we started our latest adventure (parenting).  In addition, although not naturally a cynic, I find myself questioning the real difference certain medical mission groups make.  Even though the before and after photos look great, how much difference does it make to a community when a medical mission group swoops in, repairs some cleft lips, and leaves without every returning?  Yes, I understand the social stigma associated with congenital deformities; I have seen it firsthand.  However, I also know that there is a bigger picture to consider—patient education on nutrition, prenatal care, and health care maintenance; access to basic resources, including food, shelter, and transportation; and infrastructure improvements that are required to sustain change.  Furthermore, does this paternalism actually do damage to future relationships with local health officials and governments within the countries in need, especially when late complications arise after the medical mission groups are long gone?

When you read Dr. Malchow’s article, one of the most impressive features of this program is its sustainability.  Not only does this volunteer group provide medical and surgical services to patients in need—a critical part of its “mission” is education of local providers.  Under the direction of Dr. Mark Newton, the Vanderbilt International Anesthesia (VIA) program is engaged in an ongoing relationship with Kijabe Hospital; and by training future generations of local anesthesia providers, VIA is raising the quality and safety of anesthesia and pain management services for the entire region.  One of the most important messages in Dr. Malchow’s article is that you don’t have to fly to Kenya to make a difference.  VIA would not be able to accomplish its goals without the countless people who have donated medical supplies and money for equipment and shipping.

I have been very fortunate to have joined medical mission groups that generally return to the same communities year after year.  One of the most rewarding aspects of participating, in my experience, has been developing relationships—with team members, local physicians and nurses, students and residents, government officials, and patients and families.  Although we can congratulate ourselves on what we have accomplished so far, there is still so much work left to do.

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Physicians Specializing in the Patient Experience

This post has also been featured on KevinMD.com.

Imagine — where would elective surgery be today if patients still worried about operating rooms exploding or developing liver and kidney failure from anesthesia?

Having major surgery would be a very different experience without anesthesia.  Before the advent of safe anesthesia techniques, the world of surgery was basically limited to amputations and other attempts at life-saving maneuvers.  Dr. Bigelow’s publication describing the safe administration of ether changed everything, and the New England Journal of Medicine called this the most important article in its history.  With this article, the science and clinical practice of anesthesiology, as well as the modern era of surgery, were born.

How is “anesthesiology” different than “anesthesia?”  Anesthesiology is a science like biology or physiology and a field of medicine like cardiology or radiology.  Anesthesia, a word with Greek origin, means “without sensation.”  There are different types of practitioners who can administer anesthesia, but not all of them are anesthesiologists.  The heart of anesthesiology continues to be the patient experience.  As anesthesiologists, we are physicians who specialize in relieving anxiety, preventing and treating pain, preventing and managing complications related to surgery, and improving the outcomes for patients who undergo invasive procedures.  Not only are we clinicians who apply the best available evidence in our patient care practice; we are the physicians and scientists who develop the evidence.  The clinical practice of delivering anesthesia should not take place without the involvement of anesthesiologists.

Often referred to as “going to sleep,” general anesthesia itself is actually not that simple.  In fact, there is a lot of science behind the turning of dials that many patients and providers take for granted.  Anesthetic agents have not always been as safe as they are today, and anesthesiologists were responsible for conducting important research to retire some of the anesthetics that had the potential to cause patients harm.  Thanks to anesthesiologists, we have fast-acting and safe anesthetic gases that have facilitated the evolution of same-day outpatient procedures.

One study that has guided my practice was conducted by my residency advisor, Dr. Alex Macario.  His research team surveyed patients having elective surgery to ask them which adverse effects of anesthesia they wish to avoid most.  The answers are a little surprising.  Two of the top 4 items are nausea and vomiting, with vomiting being #1.  To improve the experience for patients undergoing anesthesia, anesthesiologists have studied medications that prevent nausea and vomiting after surgery and have established practice guidelines to share their recommendations with anesthesia providers and patients everywhere.

My own research has focused on developing safe pain management techniques for patients having surgery that decreases the need for narcotics.  Like other anesthesiologists before me, I have studied target-specific pain relief techniques using local anesthetic nerve blocks that allow patients to recover at home instead of staying in the hospital for pain control after surgery.  What does this mean for you as a patient?  It means sleeping better in your own bed in your own house instead of in the hospital.  It means using less narcotic pain medication and avoiding the side effects like nausea and constipation that come with it.  It means that family members who take care of you at home can do this more easily, and they need to take less time off work.  It means that you as a patient can recover more quickly and get back to doing the things you want to do.

I apply my research results and the results of other anesthesiologists’ research studies to my clinical practice every day.  I don’t pretend to have all the answers, and I am very wary of those who say they do.  Like many of my anesthesiology colleagues, I see potential research questions and opportunities to improve the surgical experience in daily patient care activities, and I am fortunate to work in an environment that supports investigation and inspires innovation.

I have been told that it is difficult sometimes to distinguish an anesthesiologist from other anesthesia providers by what we wear and how we look.  That may be true, but there is something special about how anesthesiologists think — how we perceive clinical information, analyze it, interpret it, and apply it — that patients need to know.

Anesthesiologists, working alone or in a care team model supervising other anesthesia providers, bring their expertise to the bedside to improve the patient experience.  There has been growing pressure recently to abandon the team model and remove the need for nurse anesthetist supervision.  Why are patients and surgeons being forced to choose between having a nurse anesthetist OR an anesthesiologist when they shouldn’t have to?  Given the choice, I think they will choose “AND.”

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Essentials of Regional Anesthesia Now Available

essentials-of-regional-anesthesiaThe textbook Essentials of Regional Anesthesia is now available from online booksellers. All of the chapters are written by Regional Anesthesia fellowship directors and fellows and cover various topics including regional anesthesia procedures and acute pain management for complex patients of all ages and various co-morbidities. This book is full of clinical pearls and also includes over 400 test questions based on the book’s content to assess your knowledge of the subject matter. My chapter, co-authored by my wife who has been educating nurses on regional anesthesia techniques and acute pain management for years, focuses on the practice management aspects of regional anesthesia and offers strategies to develop effective systems that emphasize teamwork with all providers involved in caring for the perioperative patient.

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Point of Care Resource for Regional Anesthesia

visual-guide-to-regional-anesthesiaThe Visual Guide to Regional Anesthesia

This companion to the recently-released Manual of Clinical Anesthesiology (Chu and Fuller, eds.) focuses on what the clinician needs to know when performing the latest ultrasound-guided regional anesthesia procedures. The format of this book is compact and spiral bound, filled with useful cognitive aids, and each page is laminated to make it fluid-proof (perfect for the operating room).

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What Is Anesthesiology?

Anesthesiology is a specialty of medicine.

Anesthesiologists are physicians who promote patient well-being in and out of the operating room. As a diverse group, we can deliver safe anesthesia care in the operating room and procedural areas using a wide array of state-of-the-art technology, provide medical evaluation and consultation for patients before and after surgery, manage pain conditions resulting from surgery or other injuries in the short- and long-term, and discover safer and more effective ways to care for patients in the field of anesthesiology research.

After college, modern anesthesiologists complete four years of medical school then four years of residency training, and many go on to pursue extra years of fellowship training in pediatric or cardiac anesthesiology, acute or chronic pain medicine, critical care medicine, research, or other specialty fields of perioperative care. Anesthesiologists are specialists in the human condition under stress, mastering the areas of physiology and pharmacology, including the body’s response to potent medications.

Team5Great strides in patient safety have been made by anesthesiologists. Specifically, the use of life-like patient simulation in the training of new physicians was pioneered by anesthesiologists. Research conducted by anesthesiologists at the VA Palo Alto, in part, led to the replacement of toxic (and occasionally explosive) anesthetic gases with the safe agents we use today.  It is no exaggeration to say that modern surgery would not exist without the incredible advances in anesthesiology.

I am proud to be an anesthesiologist and follow in the footsteps of giants who have come before me. I have the best job in the world:  helping patients through the stressful experience of surgery, relieving pain, and making new discoveries through research that will hopefully benefit future patients.

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Stanford Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine Fellowship

stanfordThe application cycle for the 2014-15 Stanford Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine Fellowship class is still open for 1 off-cycle spot scheduled to start in Winter 2015.  The application cycle for 2015-16 is also open now and will remain open until Summer 2014.  I co-direct this training program along with Dr. Lindsey Vokach-Brodsky.  In addition to being the only fellowship in this specialty located in Northern California, the Stanford program provides its fellows with a unique training experience in a beautiful setting.  Throughout the training year, various clinical rotations at Stanford Medical Center, Stanford Medicine Outpatient Center, and the VA Palo Alto immerse fellows in an environment focused on teaching them advanced regional anesthesia techniques and perioperative pain medicine.  Fellows have ample opportunity to participate in clinical research projects and to teach basic and intermediate techniques to residents and other practitioners at educational workshops and study anatomy in the cadaver lab.

 

If you are interested in applying, please see the Stanford Anesthesia website for further information.  To compare programs, visit ASRA.com.

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New VA Palo Alto Anesthesiology Website

 

We recently launched the first website for the Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care Service at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System.  As our patient population gets more connected with instant access to information via the incimg0057ternet, it is more important than ever for us to reach out to them.  We know that going through the surgical process is a stressful experience for patients and families.  Through this website, we hope that our Veteran patients will be able to learn more about the cutting-edge anesthesia and pain management services we have to offer them.  We also want our prospective staff, trainees, and colleagues to see the great things we’re doing at the VA Palo Alto these days.  Please visit us at online!

 

 

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Welcome

va_flagsWelcome to EdMariano.com! 

I am an anesthesiologist at the VA Palo Alto Health Care System (VAPAHCS) in Palo Alto, California.  My specialty is regional anesthesia which involves performing a variety of specific nerve block techniques to numb areas of the body for pain control.  Our research has shown that nerve blocks provide patients with the best possible form of pain management after surgery.  At the VAPAHCS, we even use nerve blocks as the primary anesthetic for outpatient surgeries so patients can wake up faster, pain-free, and without the nausea and other side effects associated with general anesthesia.

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