Member Spotlight: Meet Roya Saffary, MD, FASA

  • CSA Women in Anesthesiology Task Force
| Apr 18, 2022

In recognition of the many major accomplishments by women in anesthesia, CSA will be highlighting a variety of women leaders who practice throughout the state, bringing their diverse backgrounds and life perspectives into their work, taking purposeful steps to create pathways for mentorship and sponsorship, and helping support the clinical and research work that is being driven by an increasingly diverse field of anesthesiologists.

Below is one of the series profiles on women making great things happen in anesthesia:

RoyaSaffary_Headshot2020_JPG croppedRoya Saffary, MD, FASA

  • Clinical Assistant Professor, Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine, Stanford Hospital and Clinics
  • Co-Director of OR Fellowship
  • Clerkship Director for Residency Program

How did you find the right focus area for your career?

I was born in Afghanistan, grew up in Poland and Germany and immigrated to the U.S. for college. The right focus and fit came over time as a result of my interests, my training and also opportunities that I was given along the way. I completed my residency in anesthesiology at Boston University Medical Center. Toward the end of that program, I became increasingly interested in the management and administrative aspects of anesthesiology and I applied for the Stanford fellowship in operating room management. After the fellowship I stayed on at Stanford where I can now use those skills in addition to being able to teach medical students, residents and fellows. I spend most of my non-clinical time on administrative work for the anesthesia department and the OR management fellowship. I find the administrative work that includes staffing, scheduling and workflows very fulfilling and rewarding since it provides me with a different perspective of anesthesia care, including the collaboration between the various treatment teams. I also teach a medical school class on the physiological changes during the perioperative period and manage a rotation for residents on scheduling in the operating room. The three aspects of my work – clinical care, teaching and administrative work in OR management – allow me to have a very challenging but fulfilling career that continues to keep me engaged and excited. Given my unique background, I hope to bring more diversity and a new perspective to the medical school and healthcare system.

What opportunities do you see for the future of the specialty?

Anesthesiologists have the unique training that allows them to manage patients throughout the entire perioperative period. I think we still have the opportunity to expand on our involvement outside of the OR. That includes optimization of patients with poorly-controlled comorbidities such as hypertension, diabetes and anemia prior to the day of surgery to ensure better surgical outcomes and post-surgical recovery. Although this approach is already used in some institutions, a wider application would improve patient care overall. Along the same lines, as we are faced with an aging population undergoing surgeries, we also have to consider potential long-term effects of anesthesia and develop approaches that are tailored to older and more fragile patients. This may also include being involved in the decision-making process as part of a multi-disciplinary team to determine whether the surgery and possible outcomes align with the patient’s goals.

Another area with a lot of opportunity, not only for our specialty but also for medicine overall, is to keep up with the ever-accelerating technological advances. As technology and algorithms such as artificial intelligence and machine learning become more and more sophisticated, we have to learn how to use them effectively and safely to improve patient care. There are numerous areas in our field where these technologies can be used; however, the challenge will be to ensure that it is implemented in a safe manner that does not compromise the care standards we provide. Again, being the experts in the field of perioperative medicine, it is our responsibility to explore and evaluate these opportunities.

Last but certainly not least, diversification remains an important goal for our specialty and medicine in general. This will require more targeted mentorship and sponsorship of women and underrepresented minorities to create a leadership team that is representative of the membership at large.

What do you see in the next generation of physicians?

I serve on the admissions committee for the medical school, and I am really impressed by the top-notch applicants at Stanford medical school. I feel privileged to have the opportunity to teach new medical students both in the classroom and in the operating room and it is very rewarding to see them grow academically and professionally. I also love watching the incredible transition that occurs in our trainees during residency from their first day learning the basics, to their last day of residency as confident graduates when they provide excellent care independently.

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