Whether You Are Old or New, ASRA Has Opportunities for You

By Nabil Elkassabany, MD, MSCE    Aug 24, 2018

I read the blog post written by Dr Andrea Nicol titled “Out with the Old Boys Club and In with the New” with interest. I felt that I too have to share my story of involvement with ASRA and regional anesthesia and pain medicine communities. Statements such as (ASRA is an old boys club) and (you cannot “make it” in ASRA unless you know certain people or belong to specific institutions) are simply false and unfair. The fact that I am currently 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 starts in a way similar to Andrea’s story. It was love from first sight (meeting in that case). It was the spring meeting in San Diego where ASRA’s family atmosphere was palpable. I attended some sessions and I 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 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 denied.

The following year, our group presented two abstracts in the meeting, and I resubmitted my application to the committee. This time I was nominated to serve on the committee. I have not missed a meeting since then. Two years later, I was appointed as the 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 react to its contents.  

My first engagement with ASRA as associate faculty was offered to me by Dr Edward Mariano when he chaired the 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 a long-lasting relationship of collegiality, friendship, and mentorship. Dr Vincent Chan, another ASRA leader, was the first one to include me in the ASA meeting program and to 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.” 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 board of directors and I was selected to be on the board of the directors. This is a commitment to serve that I am happy to oblige. I also have been selected to be the chair of the spring meeting in 2021.  I am aware of the workload ahead, and I am excited for it. 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. I am proud to belong to this organization and proud 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. 

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