Member Perspective: Whether You Are Old or New, ASRA Has Opportunities for You
ASRA has put out a call for nominations for committee membership. It is not uncommon around this time to hear some colleagues say, “ASRA is old boys’ club” and “I will not be able to make it in ASRA as I do not know many people and I am not from XYZ institution/s.” This was exactly me a little over 10 years ago.
I want to make it very clear that these statements are simply false and unfair. I thought sharing my story of involvement with ASRA and the regional anesthesia and pain medicine communities may help refute some of these claims. The fact that I am currently serving my last term as a member of ASRA’s Board of Directors is living proof of that. I work in an academic center where my partners and I built our regional anesthesia and acute pain program from the ground up. We never had a major figure in the field working in our institution who could pave the way for me and others in my group who are willing to be involved. My involvement with ASRA started with a sincere desire for public service, passion for the subspecialty I present and practice, and willingness to commit the time and effort.
The story is that of love at first sight (first meeting, in this case). It was the spring meeting in San Diego where ASRA’s family atmosphere was palpable. I attended some sessions and met some of the leading experts, whose work I used to read and cite, in the hallways of the meeting. It struck me how approachable and down to earth everyone was. I leaned on my friend (Dr. J.B. Liu) who was with me at the lecture hall, and I told him “Next year, we will not be here as spectators. We need to get involved.” That year, I submitted a self-nomination to the ASRA News Committee and my application was rejected.
The following year, our group presented two abstracts in the meeting. I never missed a meeting since then. During that year, I resubmitted my application to the committee. This time, I was nominated to serve. I was an active member of the committee, always volunteering for work and coming forward with ideas. Two years later, I was appointed editor of the ASRA News. This post offered me an excellent platform to be more involved with ASRA. My time as editor was busy and labor intensive at times, but I really enjoyed it. My excitement peaked at the time when each issue came out and I saw how the readers reacted to its contents.
My first engagement with ASRA as associate faculty was offered to me by Dr. Edward Mariano when he chaired the Spring Meeting in Boston in 2013. I met Dr. Mariano during the ASA meeting the year before, as he was in the audience in a panel that I was moderating about regional anesthesia for joint arthroplasty. I introduced myself after the panel, and that was the beginning of our long-lasting friendship. I consider him to be a colleague, mentor, and, above all, a very good friend. Dr. Vincent Chan, another ASRA leader/guru, was the first one to include me in the ASA meeting program and offer me this national speaking platform.
The bottom line is that the support and mentorship I had through the regional anesthesia and pain medicine community was from mentors within ASRA who were outside my institution. Along the way, I have had so many mentors from the ASRA family who became close friends and advisors. I do truly appreciate them all. Each of these individuals helped me and told me in his or her own way that “There will be time where you will help others from within or from outside your institution, and you should not hesitate to offer this help.” Our Mantra is “We pay it forward.” This is the essence of the ASRA family atmosphere and was and still is my biggest draw to this organization.
In 2017, I submitted a self-nomination to serve on the ASRA Board of Directors, and I was selected. This is a commitment to serve that I am happy to oblige. I consider chairing the 2021 Spring Meeting to be one of the major highlights of my careers. Despite the fact that the meeting looked very different because of COVID-19, I made a point to involve a diverse group of faculty. Some of them were first-time speakers, and others were coming from private practice.
What I am trying to say is that to be involved, you have to be proactive and you have to put in time and work. Do not shy away from opportunities. Your passion for what you do will be visible, and your effort will be recognized. As a member of the board, I am aware of multiple initiatives coming down the pike to develop junior faculty and promote new generations of regional anesthesia and pain medicine physicians. Are we perfect? No. Is there a room for improvement? Definitely and always. Are we working on it? Yes. I am proud to belong to this organization and to be part of it.
Nabil Elkassabany, MD, MSCE, is an associate professor in the department of anesthesiology and critical care at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia.
This article first appeared in the ASRA blog in September 2018. It has been edited and modified by the author.