An Interview with Rafi Avitsian, MD, Recipient of the American Society of Anesthesiologists’ Distinguished Educator in Anesthesiology Award

Tasha L. Welch, MD
Assistant Editor, SNACC Newsletter

Tasha L. Welch, MD
Tasha L. Welch, MD
Dr. Rafi Avitsian
Rafi Avitsian, MD

In 2019, the American Society of Anesthesiologists and the Society for Education in Anesthesia worked together to establish a Distinguished Educator in Anesthesiology Award. This award was established to recognize the importance of education in anesthesiology. Physicians who have demonstrated a commitment as educators in their careers by involvement in training programs, scholarly publications and contributions to ASA or SEA activities were eligible to receive this award. Dr. Rafi Avitsian, the Immediate Past President of the Society for Neuroscience in Anesthesiology and Critical Care, received this inaugural award at the 2019 annual American Society of Anesthesiologists meeting in Orlando, FL. Dr. Avitsian has a strong track record in anesthesiology education, having achieved Best Teacher of the Year, the Aurthor Barnes Distinguished Teacher award and the Distinguished Educator award at Cleveland Clinic. 

How did your training in anesthesiology prepare you to be an educator?
Sharing knowledge is a natural phenomenon, humans are by nature communicators, however there are different levels and some have a higher desire to share their knowledge. The feeling that you are giving information that can be used to help others is indescribable, in fact you are multiplying your ability to change lives. In fact we can say it’s a passion, and I am blessed to have that passion. As far as the environment of training, it is very important to start educating the next generation of anesthesiologists on “how to train” and “why to train” as a part of their own training. The program that I was a trainee in (a long time ago) encouraged us to learn by training as we advanced in our career. This probably encouraged and blossomed the passion that I had.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of educating future anesthesiologists?
Just seeing previous trainees progress their academic career. Every time you see your past resident acting professionally towards patients, saving a life or even giving a great lecture, you have already received your reward.

What advice would you give to young educators in anesthesiology?
Sharing your knowledge is the driving force to even learn more, to be up to date and have more confidence. We all can learn more by teaching more.

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