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Jeffrey R. Kirsch, MD – Book Author and Chair of Anesthesiology at Oregon Health and Science University

By Admin | January 2, 2008

Dr. Jeffrey Kirsch is a leader in the field of academic anesthesiology and a prolific scientific author. His most recent book Avoiding Common Anesthesia Errors was published in July, 2007 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.


Where are you from?

I was raised in Detroit, Michigan.

Where did you go to college and what was your academic major?

I graduated from The University of Michigan in 1979. My academic major was in Physiology.

What was your career path from college to Chair of Anesthesiology at Oregon Health and Science University?

I started my research in cerebral physiology with Dr. Louis D’Alecy at The University of Michigan in 1975, as a college freshman. My passion for scientific inquiry was ignited by the 8 wonderful years throughout undergraduate and medical school years that I worked with Dr. D’Alecy.

My main research focus while at Michigan involved trying to better understand the role of metabolic substrate availability and cerebral tolerance to hypoxia.

After graduating from The University of Michigan School of Medicine, I moved to Baltimore to train in Anesthesiology with Dr. Mark Rogers and work in the laboratories of Dr. Richard Traystman.

Both Drs. D’Alecy and Traystman taught me the importance of investing in oneself to create the time necessary to do the work of conducting high quality research, writing grants and papers.

My clinical focus was in Neurosurgical Anesthesia and Critical Care. Drs. Mark Rogers and Robert McPherson provided excellent clinical mentorship.

My research focus at Hopkins was in mechanisms of brain injury from ischemia. I have been continuously funded by NIH since finishing my clinical fellowship in Neurosurgical Anesthesiology and Critical Care.

When I joined the Hopkins faculty I became associate residency director. I ultimately also became program director and vice chair of education and training.

While at Hopkins I became active in the American Society of Anesthesiology(ASA), SNACC and the Society of Critical Care Medicine (SCCM). After twenty years at Hopkins, I was recruited to chair the Department of Anesthesiology at Oregon Health and Science University.

What would you say to a bright 21 year old college junior who told you they were thinking about medical school?

Go into medicine because of your passion to help other people, not because you happen to be good in science. If you are unsure of that passion, you should work in a medical environment for a couple of years before deciding to apply for medical school.

Why do you think that the incidence of medical errors has not significantly decreased, despite much attention and effort being applied to the problem.

I believe that medical errors occur because there is often a lack of personal effort for on-going medical education for healthcare professionals.

We need to develop a culture that is more welcoming of questions by any member of the team regardless of their status within the team. We all need to embrace the concept of transparency of quality data to facilitate improved patient care.

I believe that the Maintenance of Certification project of the American Board of Medical Specialties and adoption of computer assisted order entry will be helpful in decreasing the frequency of medical errors.

Why did you and the other authors decide to donate your royalties for your book Avoiding Common Anesthesia Errors to the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER)?

FAER funds projects to improve research and education in Anesthesiology. The editors and authors believe that providing financial resources to a foundation that will help to improve the knowledge base and education of anesthesiology providers will decrease the frequency of errors in our specialty.

It was an honor to donate the royalties to an organization that shares our vision of improving patient care in Anesthesiology.

What is your next book?

Acute Brain and Spinal Cord Injury: Evolving Paradigms and Management. I am a co-editor with Drs. Bhardwaj and Ellegala.

What is the hardest part about being a clinical anesthesiologist?

The most difficult issue for me to deal with as a practicing anesthesiologist is trying to cope with other members of the peri-operative team who lack insight into their own practice and opportunities that they have for improved care and efficiency.

What is the hardest part about being a Chair?

My goal is to achieve excellence in all areas of the department. Excellence requires change. Helping members of the department welcome change, with the goal of greater excellence, can be a great challenge.

What is the next job in medicine that you would like to have?

My current position as Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Peri-Operative Medicine and Chief of Staff of OHSU provides plenty of challenge. I do not have my eyes on any other opportunities in medicine.

Disclosure: The interviewer and a family member have collaborated with Dr. Kirsch on a book project.

Copyright 2008 DailyInterview.com

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