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Department of Anesthesiology

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Is a new web site that informs patients what they should be aware of before having anesthesia. This new site will allow patients the opportunity to investigate what the anesthesia experience will be like, who will be caring for them through the anesthesia experience and learn more about their specific condition and how it relates to the anesthesia experience. Learn more....

OR fires

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Honorary Degree Recipient Merel H. Harmel, M.D.

photo of Dr. Merel H. Harmel

It is with great pleasure that we announce that Dr. Merel Harmel, a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of medicine, and founding Chairman of the Department of Anesthesiology at Downstate will be awarded an honorary degree at this year's commencement during the Sesquicentennial celebrations on May 27, 2010.

If you had to come up with one word to describe Dr. Harmel, it would be first, Dr. Harmel was the:
First - Anesthesiology Resident at Johns Hopkins (1945)
First - Recipient of the National Research Council Fellowship in Anesthesiology
First - To establish Departments of Anesthesiology at three separate universities:
SUNY Downstate (1952)
University of Chicago (1968)
Duke University (1971)

Finally, the FIRST that Dr. Harmel is probably best known for was his participation, as the anesthesiologist, in the first Blalock-Taussig shunt procedure; a then novel procedure pioneered by surgeon Alfred Blalock and cardiologist Helen Taussig to shunt blood to the lungs of children with tetralogy of Fallot (more commonly known as "blue babies") in 1944.

Currently, at age 92, Dr. Harmel is Professor and Chairman Emeritus of Duke University's Dept. of Anesthesiology, still teaches a class there and serves on the Medical School Admissions Committee.

Academic Positions:

  1. Chief of the Division of Anesthesia - Albany Medical Center
  2. Chairman, Dept. of Anesthesiology - SUNY Downstate
  3. Chairman, Dept. of Anesthesiology - University of Chicago
  4. Chairman, Dept. of Anesthesiology - Duke University

Honors & Awards:

  • For the past 20 years, has had the pre-eminent anesthesia lecture at Duke University named for him: The Annual Merel H. Harmel Lecture.
  • Merel Harmel Chair of Anesthesiology - Duke University
  • Selected to serve as President, Friends of Duke University Library.
  • Founding Member - Advisory Board of Duke Gardens

Scholarly Activities:

Dr. Harmel is the author of numerous scientific articles in peer-reviewed journals focusing primarily on monitoring techniques, the effects of anesthetic agents and resuscitation techniques, as well as several textbooks.

Major Contributions to the field of Anesthesiology:

  1. Co-inventor of the first worldwide computerized vital-signs monitoring system. These systems are now standard in almost every operating room in the country.
  2. Responsible for the development of modern-day anesthesiology at three major academic departments.
  3. Renowned advocate of resident and medical student education. While at SUNY Downstate, introduced new teaching methods, research activities and the concept of quality assurance by starting strong affiliation programs with the major teaching hospitals.
  4. Established collaborative relationships between departments of surgery and anesthesia, especially in cardiac surgery and research.
  5. Responsible for bringing hyperbaric medicine under the supervision of the anesthesia department. As a result, physicians trained in this area entered the field of anesthesiology – many of these physicians went on to chair university anesthesiology departments.

Dr. Harmel is revered in the anesthesiology community as an innovator, teacher, researcher, administrator and scholar. In so many areas, he could be considered a pioneer who truly advanced the practice, safety and teaching of anesthesiology. As a result of these accomplishments, Dr. Harmel is most deserving of receiving an honorary degree from SUNY Downstate Medical Center.


Honoring Mark Lema, MD, PhD

Photo of Mark Lema

Tribute Honoree

Dr. Mark Lema has been selected as a Tribute Honoree at this year's Graduating Residents and Fellows Event to be held at the New York Marriott Brooklyn Bridge on Thursday, April 29, 2010.

Dr. Lema is an alumnus of SUNY Downstate College of Medicine (MD 1982) and of SUNY Buffalo (Ph.D. 1978) where he currently serves as Professor and Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.

Dr. Lema is internationally renowned as an expert in the mechanisms of neuropathic pain, as well as an innovator and a leader in the field of pain management for cancer patients. As such, his contributions to this field have led to new standards of care utilized throughout the world.

Dr. Lema has held many prestigious posts during his career. Among them are Past President, American Society of Anesthesiologists (2007) and Past President, NYSSA New York Society of Anesthesiologists (2001).

He has lectured at more than 225 academic institutions worldwide, authored/co-authored over 150 papers in major international scientific journals, served on 10 editorial boards, authored/co-authored several anesthesiology textbooks and was the winner of the David O. Little Book Award.

Dr. Lema's Major Contributions to the field of Anesthesiology include:

  • Discovered the presence of smooth muscle myosin isozymes (Circulation Research).
  • Developed the method to extract biologically active myosin enzymes from biopsied muscle (Journal of Chromotography).
  • Early proponent of advancing cancer pain management nationally and internationally helping to develop palliative care during its formative stage.
  • Drafted the earlier cancer pain and palliative care guidelines.
  • Testified before Congress (2007) regarding Pain Research at the Dept. of Veterans' Affairs.
  • Reported the first large scale study of 4,227 patients that evaluated the outcomes of thoracic and lumbar epidural analgesia managed outside of the ICU (Anesthesiology). This work was designated, by the American Society of Regional Anesthesia, as the seminal work that changed how postoperative neuraxial analgesia is managed.
  • Helped to develop the practical use of interpleural phenol for thoracic dermatomal pain and demonstrating that anatomically, tissue was not destroyed (Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine).

The development of these pain techniques served as the bridge between oral pharmacologic cancer pain management and the future development of implantable reservoirs and stimulators used in today's pain practice.

As a result of Dr. Lema's contributions to the study of pain management and the practice of anesthesiology, thousands of patients over the span of a decade have greatly benefitted from the neurolytic techniques he perfected by alleviating their severe metastatic cancer pain. As a result of these accomplishments, Dr. Lema is most deserving to be named as a Tribute Honoree at SUNY Downstate Medical Center.


Focus On Anesthesiology Newsletter

New Spring 2013 Issue!

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Vol.9 - No.1
(Click to view/download pdf)