“Without Science, There is Little Art in Anesthesiology”

  • Hertzberg, Linda, MD, FASA
| Oct 30, 2015

The 2015 Emery A. Rovenstine Lecture at ANESTHESIOLOGY 2015

The 2015 Emery A. Rovenstine Lecture was delivered on Monday, October 26 by James Eisenach, MD.  Dr. Eisenach is F.M. James III Professor of Anesthesiology and Physiology and Pharmacology at the Wake Forest School of Medicine, and the editor-in-chief of the journal, Anesthesiology. Dr. Eisenach has a long history of scientific review and administration of NIH funded research. He is the recipient of over $16 million in NIH support and $2 million in industry support since arriving at Wake Forest School of Medicine in 1985. 

EiseanchOn October 19, Dr. Eisenach was elected to the National Academy of Medicine. This is considered one of the highest honors in the fields of health and medicine, which recognizes individuals who have demonstrated outstanding professional achievement and commitment to service.

Wearing a white coat, Dr. Eisenach strode onto the stage to lecture on his chosen topic, “Without Science, There is Little Art in Anesthesiology.” He focused on how to best balance science and art to prepare patients preoperatively, prevent complications in the OR, and speed recovery after surgery. He also asserted that anesthesia is much safer now than when Dr. Rovenstine passed.

In weaving together his theme of balancing science and art, Dr. Eisenach talked about the white coat ceremony at the commencement of medical school. He noted that many medical students “wanted to apply science to take care of patients,” but after the white coat ceremony ended, students were immersed in a world of science and “learned that facts were insufficient.” 

traffic copDr. Eisenach stressed that medical students and physicians must learn how to apply art and science in our daily practice, noting that our specialty is just now developing researchers focused on patient-centered outcomes. One analogy he used was that of an anesthesiologist as a traffic cop, managing multiple patients, their medical conditions, and needs in the preoperative period. This may also involve coordinating “prehabilitation” with smoking cessation, relaxation training, nutrition, and exercise.

Dr. Eisenach punctuated his lecture with intermittent readings by anesthesiologist and writer, Carol Cassella, MD. Dr. Cassella is the author of the novels “Oxygen,” “Healer,” and “Gemini,” and is famous for saying that “all of us cling to existence by one molecule, oxygen.”

cassellaThe marriage of science and art was dramatically expressed on stage by switching between Dr. Cassella as a reader of literature and Dr. Eisenach as a speaker in the realm of science. It was a fitting exclamation point to Dr. Eisenach’s distinguished career as editor-in-chief of Anesthesiology.

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