Happy International Women's Day

By Linda Le-Wendling, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, University of Florida College of Medicine    Mar 8, 2016

Editor's Note: In honor of today, March 8th, 2016, International Women's Day, we present a sample listing of women leaders in regional anesthesia. This article originally appeared in the February ASRA News. Watch for the  May issue in which we feature more women who have been leaders in the field of chronic and acute pain medicine.

In 1910, Clara Zetkin proposed that every year in every country there should be a celebration, a Women’s Day, and thus International Women’s Day was born. There have been many contributions and achievements from women in pain medicine and regional anesthesiology, and we would like to highlight some of those contributions in the spirit of this event.

Dr Mercedes Concepcion served as the director of Regional Anesthesia Services at Harvard Medical School. Described as a “stellar teacher,” she mentored program pioneers such as Kayser Enneking, Susan Steele (who started the program at Duke University), and Anne Schools (who was instrumental to the program at Brigham and
Women’s Hospital). 

Dr Denise Wedel was the first female president of ASRA, an experience she recently reflected on in honor of the Society’s 40th Anniversary. She won the ASRA Distinguished Service Award in 2004 and the Gaston Labat Award in 2012. When it comes to mentoring, Dr Wedel humbly admits that the most important thing with mentoring is that once the mentor has taught the mentee, the mentor then must step aside to allow the mentee to shine. Her advice for young physicians is to get involved, be available, come to the poster sessions, and stay for the activities and educational sessions including those at the end of the meetings, do the behind-the-scenes work. The great number of contemporary women leaders who count Dr Wedel as the inspiring force in their professional lives is a testament to her sagacity and dedication.

Dr Terese Horlocker’s prolific scholarly career in addition to her extensive service in ASRA and the American Society of Anesthesiologists has earned numerous distinctions including the Distinguished Service Award in 2009 and the Gaston Labat Award in 2011. Dr Horlocker served multiple roles on ASRA’s Board of Directors in addition to her service as ASRA President. Her other contributions include chairing the Education and CME Committee, serving as an editorial board member for Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, and being section editor for Anesthesia and Analgesia. To date, her most clinically impactful work includes spearheading the effort for the development of the guidelines for regional anesthesia in patients receiving antithrombotic or thrombolytic therapy.

Dr Kayser Enneking has served on the Board of Directors for ASRA in addition to being involved in multiple committees including those for Perioperative Surgical Home Implementation, Communications, Scientific Program, Newsletter, and Global Humanitarian. She was deeply involved in the Lifebox Foundation whose goal is to provide pulse oximetry and education to anesthesia providers in Honduras. Her current passion is to restructure anesthesiology into the Perioperative Surgical Home Model. When asked about the individuals that inspired her, Kayser names Dr Denise Wedel as her professional role model and her mother as the guide that sheds light on her path and gives her clarity when she is faced with tough decisions.

“Our career is a marathon, not a sprint. Do one thing at a time, and do it well! As women, we desire to be perfectionists. So involve yourself in one project each year. And invest in those projects that are clinically significant to you!” 

Dr Su Ganapathy’s research and publications cover a wide variety of topics. Currently, her goal is to support young investigators in the research and education of regional anesthesia as well as to raise public awareness of the ill effects of opioids and regional anesthesia’s role in reducing opioid analgesics. She identifies Vincent Chan, MD, FRCPC, FRCA, as her mentor. Her perspective is that promoting regional anesthesia and analgesia to surgeons and anesthesia colleagues can be tiring and we will encounter disagreeable comments as to the role and value of regional anesthesia, but with the use of sweet words and a focus on improved patient care, even the most dissenting of individuals will give you their support.

Dr Julia Pollock currently fills her time as chief of Anesthesiology at the Virginia Mason Medical Center. Her most recent accomplishments include taking Japan Gemba trips and being certified in Lean Management. During her time devoted to ASRA, she served on the board of directors, and as president and treasurer. She was involved in the annual meeting program, including being the Chair in 2001. Her scholarly interests focused on the use of intrathecal local anesthetics. In her early career, Dr Pollock was inspired by Joy Hawkins’ competency, kindness, and grace under pressure. During her fellowship, she was enthralled by Denise Wedel, MD, even more so after having met her. Her
current work is at the executive level with her hospital’s merger and reconfiguration and the development of a new simulation and learning center though she still loves to mentor and teach.

Her sage words: “Focus your efforts on things that you are really passionate about. It is too easy to get buried in all the work that other people want you to do, and that exacerbates burnout.” And most importantly, “Be sure to prioritize your family!”

Dr Anahi Perlas is heavily involved in the Scientific Program for the spring annual meetings, and she serves as the chair of the Educational/Scientific Planning Team for the meeting in spring 2016. Her current research focuses on the novel perioperative utility of ultrasound imaging and, most recently, the utility of point-of-care ultrasound tool to identify patients with gastric content—a multidisciplinary endeavor to define validity, reliability, and applicability of this tool. When asked who inspired her, she named Vincent Chan, MD, FRCPC, FRCA, for his inquisitiveness, his desire for improvement, his positive attitude despite challenges, his dedication, and his easily approachable nature. As for what advice she would give to physicians early in their career, Dr Perlas encourages collaboration and the continued desire to always learn something new each and every day.

Dr Sandra Kopp’s involvement in ASRA is manifold and includes being chair and faculty advisor for the Resident Section Committee and Spring Meeting Planning Committee. Her publications and oral presentations span subjects from perioperative pathways for joint replacement to regional anesthesia and neurologic disease/anticoagulation/surgical site infection, and resident and fellow training. Dr Kopp finds inspiration in her mentors, Terese Horlocker, Denise Wedel, and Jim Hebl. She was introduced to the use of clinical pathways for total joint arthroplasty during her fellowship and would love to answer the question about long-term functional outcomes in these patients. And while leading quite the successful academic career, Sandra still enjoys her clinical work. What is her advice for folks early in their career? “I think we have the ability to impact patients in a very positive way, both in terms of analgesia and hopefully long-term functional outcomes. We need to identify those patients who will truly benefit from a regional technique and provide them with high-quality, efficient patient care.”

In all these amazing women, the degree of involvement in research and scholarly activity, in committee participation and leadership at both local and national levels, in producing and improving upon clinically impactful projects, and in the pursuit of knowledge, is inspiring. It is great to see our contemporary female leaders follow in the footsteps of pioneers such as Gertie Marx and Mercedes Concepcion. As contemporary admirable role models, they have certainly set a wonderful example for us to follow: inquire, learn, participate, and contribute.


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