The Gasette

Anesthesia Newsletter

May 2024

As we transition into spring, I am excited to share the Department's latest updates. This newsletter edition is filled with stories that recognize important career milestones and achievements of staff, as well as successful events such as our Celebrating Excellence event and our Research Day collaboration. 

Although very busy with our clinical and academic work, staff also found the time to participate in a fun-filled fitness challenge which promoted wellness, while enabling the Anesthesia Department to save the planet from an imaginary alien invasion!

I hope you enjoy the read. May this May be a time of prosperity and growth. 

Dr. Janice Chisholm

Head, Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management and Perioperative Medicine 

Central Zone, Nova Scotia Health Authority, 

Professor, Dalhousie University

New IWK Pediatric Chief 

In April, the Department warmly welcomed Dr. Sally Bird as the new IWK Chief of Pediatric Anesthesia, replacing Dr. Scott Drysdale who has ended his term. A heartfelt thank you is extended to Dr. Drysdale for his leadership and contributions over many years. 


A native of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, Dr. Bird initially entered Dalhousie medical school to become a community pediatrician like her father, but she quickly found her passion working in the operating room. “I loved everything about it: the complexity of the environment, the team sport nature of it, as well as the technical side of anesthesia,” says Dr. Bird. “On top of that, I gained some exposure to pediatric anesthesia while doing pain research with Drs. Allen Finley and Pat McGrath during my undergraduate degree at Dal.” During her residency at McGill University, she discovered her love of pediatric anesthesia.


Pediatric anesthesia combines all of my favourite things about medicine: working with a great team towards a common goal, working with children and families, striving to provide the best possible experience during their most stressful time, and working in an innovative and interesting specialty.”


Dr. Bird has been in the Department of Pediatric Anesthesia since 2009 and has held the Associate Chief position for nine years. Among her priorities, Dr. Bird hopes to expand the team’s out of OR activities to better meet the sedation and vascular access needs of the Children’s Health Program at the IWK. She also wants to establish a pre-operative clinic that not only provides pre-operative assessment but also improved pre-operative preparation. Both initiatives are dependent on completing the most important task - recruiting new staff and expanding the clinical team to include some non-core pediatric anesthesia staff.


“My first priority is maintaining our excellent team and finding creative ways to expand our staffing including more collaboration with the adult anesthesia group. I believe this will benefit not only our team at the IWK but also the larger Dalhousie Department. Our field is ever changing, and our role is expanding, a strong and supportive team is essential to meet this challenge and continue to provide excellence in patient care and professional fulfillment,” Dr. Bird explains. When asked what brings her excitement and perpetually motivates her in this field, she replies: “You never get tired of working with children – they always bring humor, honesty, and fun to the job!”

Celebrating Success – Dr. Vishal Uppal

Dr. Vishal Uppal's pursuit of impactful research is inspiring a new generation of researchers in regional anesthesia and pain medicine. For his outstanding work, he was awarded in March the prestigious American Society of Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine Presidential Scholar Award. The award recognizes anesthesiologists who have made significant contributions to regional anesthesia and pain medicine over the past decade, have a strong academic background, and have a history of high-impact publications on specific topics relevant to regional anesthesia and pain medicine.

"This is an extraordinary milestone. It's a moment of profound validation and honor, recognizing years of dedicated work and unwavering commitment to advancing the fields of regional anesthesia and pain medicine. It signifies not only recognition of my academic achievements but also the impact of my research contributions on the broader scientific community,” says Dr. Uppal. “This award reinforces my resolve to remain actively engaged with research and to further contribute to its mission of advancing excellence in medicine.”

When asked to share his research philosophy with fellow researchers, Dr. Uppal’s first advice is to clearly define research interests. “Your passion for your research area will drive your dedication and perseverance.” Also, he recommends that researchers build a strong foundation as the backbone of their research endeavours. It is crucial to invest time in building a solid foundation of knowledge in relevant scientific principles, research methodologies, and statistical analysis.

He also emphasizes the value of working with peers, mentors, and interdisciplinary teams to leverage diverse perspectives, expertise, and resources. Collaborative research often leads to more comprehensive and impactful outcomes. Additionally, Dr. Uppal also highlights the importance of actively sharing your knowledge and findings by publishing and presenting findings through publications in peer reviewed journals and presentations at conferences.

Research is often accompanied by challenges and setbacks,” says Dr. Uppal. He encourages researchers to embrace these challenges as opportunities for growth and learning, stay balanced and maintain a healthy work-life balance to prevent burnout and sustain long-term productivity and well-being.

Celebrating Excellence

Recognizing achievements is a key part of the Department’s efforts to foster a positive workplace culture. On April 24th, the Department hosted its Celebrating Excellence event to honour retirees for their important career milestones and to acknowledge award recipients for outstanding contributions. Hosted by Dr. Sally Bird, with over 80 people in attendance, the event was a beautiful ceremony accentuated by heartfelt tributes, laughter and a wonderful sense of camaraderie and pride.

We bade a fond farewell to four retirees who collectively dedicated more than 130 years of service to patient care and to supporting Dalhousie’s academic mandate. Over the years, they have cared for thousands of patients, sat through hours of meetings, trained and inspired many students and residents, and supported clinical, education and research effort – all to help us to provide the best anesthesia care to our patients. We extend best wishes on a joyful and healthy retirement to:

  • Dr. David Hughes, Anesthesiologist, St. John, NB
  • Dr. Andrew Clark, Anesthesiologist, St. John, NB
  • Dr. Fiona Roper, Anesthesiologist, Central Zone, NS
  • Catherine Matheson, Administrative Assistant, IWK Women & Obstetric Anesthesia Department

We also presented Awards of Excellence to individuals and teams who consistently go above and beyond in supporting the Department’s vision, mission, and values:

  • Catherine Matheson, Administrative Assistant, Internal Individual Award
  • Joanne Dunnington, Executive Director (Interim), QEII Central Zone, External Individual Award
  • Megan Arsenault, Anesthesia Technician, Dale Morrison Memorial Award
  • Chantelle Jones Deveau, Anesthesia Assistant, Dale Morrison Memorial Award
  • Dr. André Bernard, Dr. Tom Marrie Leadership Award
  • NSH Perioperative Blood Management Program Team - Dr. Blaine Kent, Dr. Heather Mingo, PhD, Erin Sampson, Internal Team Award
  • IWK MRI Technologists - Matthew Rogers, Sara Sullivan, Jennifer Taylor, Amanda Boyd, Nicole Lever, External Team Award

Dr. Janice Chisholm paid homage to the recipients and retirees by saying I believe that a great team do not happen by chance. It takes dedicated and collaborative colleagues who share the same goal and support each other through both the good and the challenging times. Every day, I am grateful and honoured to work with such a bright and devoted team of anesthesiologists, residents, fellows, anesthesia assistants and technicians, researchers, and administrative staff members.”

Research Day 2024

What research is stimulating the curiosity of our future medical practitioners and scientists? 

That was the focus of the Department’s Annual Research Day held on April 10th at the Halifax Convention Centre. The collaborative event, hosted by the Departments of Anesthesia, Surgery and Ophthalmology and the Dalhousie Pain Network, was a huge success bringing together over 500 participants.

The collaborative highlights of the day included a keynote address by Dr. John Marshall of St. Micheal’s Hospital on how the COVID-19 pandemic changed clinical research, a session for trainees with guest speakers from all departments, informal networking opportunities and a closing awards presentation. The Department is grateful for the Faculty of Medicine’s Medical Research Development Office’s grant of $5000 to assist in supporting these inter-departmental efforts to foster continued learning and evidence-based improvements to healthcare.

The Anesthesia portion of the day, hosted by Dr. Patty Livingston, was attended by over 118 trainees, faculty, clinician/PhD scientists, and research and professional staff. By all accounts, Research Day met all the expectations of our participants. Attendees surveyed valued the opportunity to interact and learn from colleagues in different disciplines while also celebrating the research of our trainees.

A highlight of the day for many was the anesthesia keynote speaker Dr. Gianni Lorello. Associate Professor at the University of Toronto and inaugural Chair of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion, Dr. Lorello outlined his research examining disparities within anesthesiology, and more broadly, in medicine. Specifically, he explored gender and sexuality in medicine, considering the plurality of voices, and how social relations structure sex and gender minority physicians' everyday lives. 

The main spotlight of the day, however, was focused on our trainees. There were 19 presentations by 17 fellows, residents, and postgraduate and undergraduate students. The presentations covered a wide range of fascinating topics, such as exploring medicine depictions in music and films, the brain connections between trauma and chronic pain, the feasibility of regional anesthesia in microgravity, and the usage of select drugs or equipment in anesthesia. Department members reported being impressed with hearing about trainee scholarly work and indicated that it allowed them to reflect on their own clinical practice and seek opportunities for improvement.

Dr. Christian Lehmann, Medical Director of the Office of Research, presented the top ranked trainee awards to Drs. Dan Werry and Loran Morrison, Daniel Eduardo Neira Agonh, Jennika Veinot, Alex MacNeil and Gaurav Arora.

Dr. André Bernard, Associate Head of the Department, closed the event by inspiring trainees and researchers: "Continue to ask questions. Let curiosity be your compass. Don't just ponder the unanswered questions raised today, actively pursue them. We can all break new ground in our fields by cultivating a culture of inquiry."


Stepping Up to Wellness

This winter, 100 people ‘stepped up’ in the name of wellness by participating in the Department’s third annual Anesthesia Fitness Challenge. During a six-week period, participants collectively took 54 million steps and walked nearly 43,000 kilometres in the ORs, the hospital hallways and throughput their neighborhoods, all while virtually fighting aliens!

To join the fitness challenge, participants downloaded an interactive virtual fitness application onto their mobile devices. They then created personal avatars and in teams collaborated virtually to meet daily and weekly fitness goals. The teams advanced in a dystopic world to a final ‘safe house’ by translating every step taken in the real world into virtual steps which were used to fight the aliens.

The fitness challenge promoted the importance of staying physically active and created a fun activity for clinical faculty, administrative employees, residents, anesthesia assistants and technicians to connect both in and outside of the workplace.

While the number of steps taken was impressive, the real success lay in the positive impact on well-being and a sense of engagement. The majority of the participants surveyed said that the challenge helped improve their lifestyle behaviours and build connections with other colleagues. "It was a great way to meet the colleagues I wouldn't usually interact with," said one participant. “The program was a fun way to stay active in the winter and fostered great team spirit," added another participant.

The fitness challenge was made possible due to funding from the Department and a much-appreciated Workplace Wellness Grant from Dalhousie University.

Dr. Stephanie Power, the new Medical Director of Wellness acknowledges the success of the fitness activity and looks forward to the year ahead and the opportunities it brings. “I am really excited to build upon the work started by my predecessor, Dr. Tracy Kok, directing our focus on strategies for addressing work-related stress and burnout such as critical incident debriefing” says Dr. Power. She also has plans to create opportunities for members to gather to socialize and discuss career transitions. “We will continue celebrating our Department and its members to recognize the hard work we are all doing every day to provide outstanding patient care and academic excellence.”

About us

We are a clinical and academic Department affiliated with Dalhousie University’s Faculty of Medicine, Nova Scotia Health (Central Zone) and the IWK Health Centre. Some of our academic faculty are also located in regions across the Maritimes and beyond. 

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