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Department of Anesthesiology
From the Vice Chair of Education
On October 16, 1846, W.T.G. Morton, a New England dentist, publicly demonstrated that the pain of surgery could be controlled when he administered diethyl ether while Dr. John C. Warren removed a tumor from his patient's jaw. This momentous discovery of pain relief changed the course of medical history. The operating room was transformed from an arena of terror with strong men holding down a struggling, screaming patient, while a surgeon did his work as hurriedly as possible. Happily, the time is now gone when the best surgeon was the fastest, and when major body cavities could not be entered because of pain and shock, and when, despite the best care, 50% of all patients undergoing surgery would die. The surgeon's status was elevated from that of crude workman to a skilled, educated physician, able to apply knowledge of physiology, anatomy, and surgical technique to the unresisting patient undergoing surgical procedures unheard of, and indeed, undreamed of only a short time before. The specialty and subspecialties of surgery advanced, and most importantly, patients' lives were saved and life itself made more pleasant. All this came about through the control of pain.
Anesthesiology, too, has grown. While the relief of intraoperative pain is still our most important function, anesthesiologists work in and out of the operating room in a number of ways. The Critical Care Unit needs the special skills of the anesthesiologist and his/her expertise in management of respiration, fluid balance, and pain control. Acute and chronic pain relief, diagnostic and therapeutic nerve blocks are the responsibilities of the anesthesiologist. The rapid growth of ambulatory surgery has brought special challenges to hospital systems that have changed as a result. Anesthesiologists have learned to adapt to current demands and to alter ages old methods of practice in an evolving system of medical care.
The anesthesiologist must be anatomist, physiologist, pharmacologist, internist, and pediatrician. Knowledge of surgery, orthopedics, and obstetrics is important and must be constantly reviewed and renewed.
A world of practice opportunities awaits the trained physician capable of controlling pain. Anesthesiologists are at home in private practice and in federal, municipal and state hospitals. The graduates of our program can be found throughout the United States, some joining our faculty, others traveling as far as New Mexico, California, Alaska and Hawaii.
To those whose interest extends beyond the operating room and hospital, there is the work of academic medicine and the research laboratory.
We invite you to explore this fascinating world of anesthesiology, to see the application of physiology and pharmacology in the clinical laboratory that is the operating room. Learn of the monitors that analyze every heartbeat, every breath, and the functions of every organ, under the stresses of disease, surgery and pharmacologic onslaught. If the direct application of physiology and pharmacology to clinical medicine excites you, then anesthesiology will excite you, because that's what our specialty is. We look forward to meeting you.
Audrée A. Bendo, M.D.