An Interview With SNACC’s New President Rafi Avitsian, MD

Laurel E. Moore, MD

Chair, SNACC Communications Committee

Jeffrey J. Pasternak, MD

Rafi Avitsian, MD

Laurel E. Moore, MD
Laurel E. Moore, MD

Question: Can you tell us a little about yourself personally? 

Answer: I am not sure how far back our readers want me to go, but basically, I am an Armenian by heritage. I have lived in Iran, the UK, Canada and now the USA. At home we talk Armenian and my family can read and write Armenian. I completed my residency in anesthesiology and fellowship in neuroanesthesioology at the Cleveland Clinic. I have been involved with SNACC in different levels since my fellowship and it is the home society for me.

On a personal note, I really like music, mostly classic rock and my instruments I play are keyboard and bass guitar. I also sing bass in the choir, in fact I have been singing in Armenian church choirs for the last 35 years. My wife Suzelle is an interpreter, my older daughter Anna is the arty type with a degree in graphic communication and plays the drums; my younger daughter Taleen is a freshman in neurosciences with an interest in cognitive neuroscience (I didn’t have anything to do with it!) and plays the electric guitar. In fact she volunteered in a youth behavioral health facility and taught them guitar.

I am not much of a fan of any sport team but I like football (to clarify, it is a game you play with your foot but it’s not called football in USA, it is called soccer!). I do like running, especially with my dog, who has completed a half marathon with me when both of us were a bit younger.

I love traveling and will be very happy to go and visit our members in different countries and get to know how they approach perioperative neuroscience and exchange knowledge as well as get familiar with their culture.

Question: Can you tell us what your “big picture” goals are for SNACC  this year?

Answer: I have mentioned this in the President’s Message in the newsletter as well as the website, but in a nutshell, I want to continue the efforts started by my predecessors in redefining our society’s strategy, in line with the three pillar concept of care of neurologically impaired patients, foundational neuroscience in anesthesiology and neurological outcome after non-neurosurgical procedures. I also would like to emphasize and grow the activities of our newly formed committee on diversity and inclusion. I really want to increase our membership and make it more attractive for members who advance their career outside of the United States as well as neuroscience students. Membership in our society has values that may not have been appreciated enough, maybe because we are not much in to advertising about ourselves, but once we can show the value, I think we will not only attract more members, but also see more engagement from our current members. We have to extend our reach to other societies with similar interests and offer collaborations specifically in this new scientific arena.

Another important part is the ICPNT. The newly formed council with the leadership of Drs. Andrew Kofke and Lara Ferrario, is working hard to be able to get some applications in 2019. We have been talking about accreditation for years, we should start doing it now.

Question: What are your thoughts about next year’s meeting?

Answer: Very positive. I know many are thinking that the SNACC EC has taken a risk with moving away from the ASA, but I firmly believe that we are going to have a fantastic program in an excellent venue. There is going to be more time to interact and network, more time to spend with family and more opportunities to review and discuss the presentations. Dr. Paisansathan has designed a brilliant and outstanding scientific program for us. I have not even heard one negative feedback since the implementation of the idea of the separate meeting. I have even heard some members asking to start the registration early so they can ensure participation!

Question: Will we be following you @snaccprez?

Answer: Social media is not one of my strongest points, I don’t have Facebook and my LinkedIn is mostly just professional. Having said that, I am learning fast. I do have a Twitter account and I have recently acquired the @snaccprez as well. But my idea about leadership and being a president of the society is not to post many tweets for membership to read and follow, but to encourage everyone else to tweet. In an analogy, if I tweet too much it would be the same as I talk too much in a group and don’t let anyone else speak, but if I comment on or retweet other tweets, it means that I am a better listener.

Question: What are the biggest challenges facing SNACC for 2018-2019?

Answer: We have to focus on providing a good Annual Meeting, just as we have always done. This is a must and we should never decrease our efforts in bringing our members together in a healthy scientific environment to share their knowledge, teach and learn. An important challenge as I mentioned is to advertise our value and I am sure our communications committee will help in this task. The EC will also work closer with all the committees to evaluate how resourcefully they function and how the EC can more effectively help them accomplish their tasks. I want to ask our members to be more engaged and help us provide the best membership experience for them.

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