The Gasette

Anesthesia Newsletter

November 2023

After 10 Years, Our Newsletter Returns

I am very pleased to introduce the return – or the resuscitation - of The Gasette, the Department's newsletter, after more than a decade of quiet slumber. Named as a play of words for a tool of our profession, The Gasette will take the form of a quarterly e-newsletter distributed to departmental members and key partners. It will be a wonderful opportunity to share stories celebrating our departmental members’ achievements and to showcase the important patient care, education and research work that our incredible clinical, academic and administrative teams do every day, across our many sites.

In this issue, we extend a warm welcome to our new anesthesia residents and gain insight into what attracted them to study at Dalhousie. We learn about the key priorities guiding this current academic cycle for the residency program. We provide an update on the expansion of our anesthesia care services and on our tireless physician recruitment efforts. We shine a spotlight on the Dalhousie Medical School Career night and an innovative research community event in the Valley aimed at improving the health literacy of Nova Scotians regarding chronic pain management. Lastly, we proudly recognize members of our clinical faculty who have distinguished themselves in leadership roles and through their legacy of work, and we bid a very sad farewell to a faculty member who left us too soon.

I hope you find The Gasette informative, interesting and inspiring. 

Wishing you a prosperous and fruitful academic year ahead!

Dr. Janice Chisholm

Head, Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management and Perioperative Medicine 

Central Zone, Nova Scotia Health Authority, 

Professor, Dalhousie University

A New Academic Year Has Begun! 

The beginning of a brand-new academic year is often a time of excitement and renewed focus, and this holds true within our anesthesia residency program. This summer, we warmly welcomed seven new PGYI residents to our Dalhousie residency program for a total complement of 31  residents in our five-year program.

Friendly Haligonians and the city's location drew Dr. Nathan Baron to Dalhousie for his training. "All the residents and staff I interacted with were very friendly, knowledgeable, generous, and genuine. I value a place's culture, connecting with colleagues and staff also helps me learn and enjoy," says Dr. Baron. "Halifax is also a lively city, with parks, downtown, and harbors, and it also offers opportunities for hiking, skiing, and exploring. The combination of these factors made the experience enjoyable and fulfilling."

As a native of Halifax and having spent her entire academic career at Dalhousie University, Dr. Kristin Ko chose to attend Dalhousie for her residency training. "I have the most amazing people from staff to allied health and fellow residents, many of whom have been incredible mentors throughout my journey to anesthesiology,” says Dr. Ko. “I appreciate the strong, supportive environment here.”

The warm and welcoming interactions with both residents and staff also attracted Dr. Parnian Hosseini to the program. “I like the program size, it allows staff and residents to have incredibly close and supportive relationships with each other,” says Dr. Hosseini. “I also love Halifax with its surrounding nature, and I’m very happy to have joined my partner (a PGY-2 in neurology) in the city.”

Community and a sense of culture were qualities that Dr. MengQi Zhang valued when he was looking for an anesthesia program. “Even though I was unable to do any visiting electives, speaking with Dalhousie residents and faculty helped me recognize that Dalhousie was where I wanted to be,” says Dr. Zhang. “I have gained absolute confidence in my choice since starting residency, as I truly enjoy working and learning alongside my co-residents, faculty, and everyone in the anesthesia community."

According to Dr. Shannon Bradley, Postgraduate Program Director, the residency program priorities for the year ahead will be greatly shaped by last year’s accreditation survey feedback and a focus on areas of suggested improvement. “While I'm still learning in my new role, I look forward to working with the residents and our Office of Education team to continue to develop the way in which we deliver competency-based medical education (CBME). We anticipate making changes to how residents are evaluated and look forward to engaging with clinical faculty as we develop CBME 3.0. We want to provide a strong clinical and academic experience and bring focus on time spent in the ORs and clinics with patients. I'm thankful to the residents for their patience, thoughtful ideas, and reflection on what makes the program great. Small steps toward change!"

Serving in the Chief Resident role this year, Dr. Mike Smyth’s passion lies in medical education and his aim is to advocate for a stronger balance between education, workload, mental, and physical health. “I have recently realized the importance of these pillars for the success of the program. I hope to extend this to the entire program to provide the best educational experience for our resident group,” says Dr. Smyth. “I recognize that these issues are not solely resident-specific and that healthcare is suffering from COVID and system-related burnout. Working with the Residency Program Committee will allow me and my fellow members to have an open dialogue with staff to achieve this balance for all parties involved.”  

Dalhousie Medical Career Evening 

This year's Dalhousie Faculty of Medicine Career Evening was held on October 13 at the Collaborative Health Education Building. Medical students from both Nova Scotia and New Brunswick visited the Department's booth to learn about the anesthesia residency program and experience a hands-on demonstration of ultrasound scanning, spinal anesthesia, and airway management. Laura Harris Buffett, Managing Director of Education and Allister Barton, Education Manager, were instrumental in setting up the booth and ensuring things ran smoothly.

Dr. Jon Bailey's demonstration on the use of ultrasound for nerve blocks attracted participants to our booth and was greatly appreciated by the medical students. He was assisted by Dr. Stephen Middleton who talked with interested students about his global health anesthesia experiences.

Three of our first-year residents, Drs. Jeffrey Landrigan, MengQi Zhang, and Nathan Baron, volunteered at the event and shared with medical students their knowledge and experiences in the early days of their program. "It was great getting to interact with all the enthusiastic, new medical learners and introducing them to a specialty that many had minimal exposure to," says Dr. Landrigan. "We had lots of fun practicing airway skills using the notoriously challenging airway mannequin and also spent some time practicing spinal anesthesia,” says Dr. Zhang. “There were many questions about training at Dalhousie and what it was like to work in the OR—I was really impressed with their interest in our residency program," says Dr. Baron.

"The event not only let junior medical students touch and feel our training devices, but most importantly, it helped to elevate their visibility of the career paths of anesthesiologists and created a pipeline to bring students into our programs. I am looking forward to working with some of these potential residents in the near future," says Dr. Bukky Akindele, Medical Director of Undergraduate Education.

Expanding Anesthesia Care for Surgical Patients

To help better serve our patients who are waiting too long for surgery, our Nova Scotia Health and the IWK Health Centre teams are working closely with system partners to expand operating room (OR) capacity. These efforts are in support of Government’s plan to address surgical waitlists and wait-times. Since April 2023, we expanded our anesthesia services by staffing three additional OR days per week at the QEII Health Sciences Centre, Halifax Infirmary site and three additional OR days per week at Scotia Surgery in Dartmouth. Starting in September 2023, our anesthesiologists are staffing five additional OR days per week. This includes an additional operating room (OR) designated for neurosurgery, as well as additional OR days per week at QEII Health Sciences Centre, Victoria General (VG) site and the Dartmouth General Hospital.

Our staff at the IWK Women's and Obstetric Anesthesia and the IWK Pediatric Anesthesia departments are also striving to increase OR anesthesia capacity. Both departments have been successful in obtaining additional physician resources. “Having more physicians on our team is a huge help. We look forward to implementing these resources as quickly and efficiently as possible,” says Dr. Scott Drysdale, IWK Chief of Pediatric Anesthesia.

To meet this growing demand for anesthesia services and to replace vacancies as our physicians retire or depart, the Department has undertaken an extensive physician recruitment effort over the past two years. “Human resources are critical to our success. We need to recruit new anesthesiologists in order to expand our OR capacity,” says Dr. Narendra Vakharia, IWK Chief of Women’s and Obstetric Anesthesia.

Since January 2022, the Department has successfully recruited 20 new clinical faculty in anesthesia and chronic pain management. As well, we have hired a number of short-term locum tenens positions and two longer one-year locum positions. We have also made offers to eight additional staff who will start in the months and the year ahead. 14 of the 28 new or planned hires (50%) are graduates of Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine which demonstrates that we have not only been able to retain local trainees but also attract new talent from elsewhere in the country, as well as internationally. “In my recollection, this is the most robust recruitment campaign ever undertaken by the Department with the largest influx of new staff joining in such a condensed timeframe. It has been wonderful to welcome so many qualified and diverse physicians to our teams,” says Dr. Chisholm, Department Head. “And our recruitment continues. A sincere thanks to our faculty, healthcare and administrative team members for all their efforts to welcome, orient and onboard the new staff!”

Sharing Pain Research in the Community

With the support of the Department’s Anesthesia Research Funding Activity Grant, department members and people with lived experience are organizing a series of Café Scientifique events for Nova Scotians living in rural communities. The inaugural event took place on September 26th in a café in Wolfville and was a great success, drawing a full house of over 50 participants. Café Scientifique events are a part of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research's (CIHR) Knowledge Mobilization program. They aim to prioritize knowledge dissemination to improve health literacy and health equity and empower Canadians to take charge of their own health. These events are informal gatherings between researchers, medical experts, and members of the community to discuss the newest scientific findings. The meetings can take place in cafés, bars, or restaurants - never in an academic setting.

The initiative aims to promote patient engagement, discuss medical services and clinical research in the province, introduce pain research and new discoveries, and foster new partnerships between individuals and researchers,” says Dr. Melissa O’Brien, PhD, Research Associate and co-organizer of the event. “Reflecting on this amazing event, the Cafe Scientifique, it was such an honour to bring pain science/ knowledge to our communities but to see the uptake from the public, which included clinicians and people living with pain exceeded anything I imagined,” says Virginia McIntyre, co-organizer of the event. Virginia is a Medical Radiation Technologist and served as a patient partner in pain research during the event. “It was truly incredible to witness the energy in the room at the Cafe Scientifique, as people discussed pain science and care. The event exceeded my expectations.”

 "We were delighted to have Dr. Andy MacLean share his insights on chronic pain management; Dr. Jason McDougall, PhD elaborate on why people feel pain; and Virginia McIntyre, BA, MRT(R)(MR) discuss her perspectives as a person with lived experience and the importance of engaging patient partners in research; the participants also contributed very good questions to the discussion,” says Dr. O’Brien. “The event was well-received, with both community members and healthcare providers requesting future community outreach events. We are already excited to host our next event, so stay tuned!” 

Celebrating Faculty Accomplishments 

One of our Department’s strategic directions is ‘demonstrating clinical, research and education leadership to advance the full potential of the Department and support system improvements’. We are exceptionally proud of the leadership demonstrated by our clinical faculty, many of whom are distinguishing themselves by their excellence both within the province and beyond.

Dr. Bernard – Dalhousie Senate

Congratulations to Dr. André Bernard, Associate Head on his recent three-year appointment to the Dalhousie University Senate as a representative of the Faculty of Medicine. Dr. Bernard firmly believes that faculty members have a responsibility to help shape the future of the University, and as such, he volunteered to be nominated for the Senate position. Being a clinical-academic department within the Faculty of Medicine goes beyond education and research. It also means being good citizens of the university and contributing to the structures that govern our roles as academic physicians,” says Dr. Bernard.

The Senate is the senior academic governing body of the university. It oversees all programs, grants, degrees, and diplomas, manages the reviews of faculties, centres and institutes, as well as sets out academic regulations. It is instrumental in building an academic culture throughout the entire university, including the Faculty of Medicine, where individuals may occasionally experience a sense of detachment from the broader university community. “I’m committed to bring our unique perspective as clinical faculty members to the Senate operations, as well as to promoting the principles of equality, diversity, and inclusion for all, ” says Dr. Bernard. 

Dr. Audain – President, Doctors Nova Scotia 

In June 2023, Dr. Colin Audain, Anesthesia Site Chief for the Victoria General site, was installed as the President of Doctors Nova Scotia. Doctors Nova Scotia is the oldest medical association in Canada and its membership represents more than 3,500 physicians, including practicing and retired physicians, medical students and residents. In assuming the presidency of the association, Dr. Audain is following in the footsteps of his father, Dr. Vincent Audain, an ophthalmologist, who was President in 1988–89.

Throughout his career, Dr. Audain has sought opportunities to contribute meaningfully to the health-care system. As a member of the Promoting Leadership in Health for African Nova Scotians Advisory Committee and the Black Physicians of Nova Scotia Society, Dr. Audain is also acutely aware of the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in medicine.  

During his term, Dr. Audain hopes to see better patient access to primary care with the stabilization of family medicine in Nova Scotia. “It’s not the only problem in healthcare, but I see it as the most pressing issue in the province,” says Dr. Audain. “It is an honour to serve on the Doctors Nova Scotia team and work with them to achieve their primary goal of assisting physicians to succeed and positively impact the lives of our patients. The organization is committed to addressing disparities within the province's healthcare system, and I'm thrilled to contribute to this important endeavour.”

Dr. Hung – DMAA Exceptional Service Award

Dr. Orlando Hung, staff anesthesiologist and former long-serving Medical Director of Research, was recently honoured for his legacy of exceptional work by being bestowed the Dalhousie Medical Alumni Association Exceptional Service Award. The award is presented annually to recognize alumni who are highly respected, and whose careers and service in the practice of medicine have been outstanding. Dr. Hung was nominated by Dr. André Bernard, for his significant impact on anesthesiology research, advanced airway management, and his compassionate character.

As a renowned academic physician with appointments in four departments and numerous publications, Dr. Hung has not only received all teaching awards within the Department, but also received recognition from the Canadian Anesthesiologists' Society,” says Dr. Bernard. “He has been a steadfast advocate for, and mentor and friend to medical students, supporting self-led initiatives, philanthropy, and student fundraising.” 

Dr. Hung has fostered local and international development through his genuine interest in the well-being of others and his sense of hospitality. As a volunteer with the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society International Education Foundation, he has contributed over 1000 hours to the development of the residency program at the National University of Rwanda, demonstrating his humanitarian efforts to improve safe anesthesia globally. 

I am incredibly honoured to receive this prestigious award,” says Dr. Hung. “The processes of teaching, learning, and providing healthcare are ongoing endeavors that have no end in sight. I am always broadening my horizons in order to support my fellow colleagues and learners, and to provide excellent care to our patients.”

In Memoriam - Dr. Michael Schmidt

This summer, the Department bade a very sad farewell to Dr. Michael Schmidt who passed away on August 20, 2023. Dr. Schmidt was a renowned researcher, clinical anesthesiologist, intensive care specialist, and emergency medicine specialist. He began his career in Germany, where he completed his Habilitation to become a Professor in Anesthesia. His research group was involved in the first approval of xenon as an anesthetic gas and neuroprotectant worldwide. Dr. Schmidt's expertise included studies in large animals and the use of multimodal neuro-monitoring for neuro- and organ protection experiments. He later introduced the novel approach of administering argon as a protective gas in conjunction with modern anesthesia. In 2007, Dr. Schmidt moved to Nova Scotia, where he joined the Dalhousie Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management and Perioperative as a Professor, staff anesthesiologist and researcher. He was a strong proponent of taking research from the bench to the bedside, working tirelessly to develop new technologies for safer anesthesia and ventilation. He will be missed.

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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