McMaster University

McMaster University

About Us

Norm Buckley
Norm Buckley, Professor and Chair, Department of Anaesthesia

Welcome to the Department of Anesthesia in the Faculty of Health Sciences at McMaster University. You will find a description of the department, our faculty members as well as details of our education and research activities.

Anesthesia is a primarily facilitatory discipline. Despite the obvious attractions, few patients present themselves for anesthesia services; rather anesthesia serves to make possible the provision of other services- all varieties of surgery including obstetrical, and diagnostic studies of various sorts especially in the pediatric specialty areas. It has been said that the greatest advance in surgery in the past 50 years has been anesthesia (Mt Sinai Medical Center, NY NY website). Certainly morbidity and mortality due primarily to anesthesia have diminished dramatically with advances in monitoring, pharmacology and training.  This is demonstrated concretely by the fact that Canadian Medical Protective Association premiums have shown a steady decline in the past 15 years.

Highlights for the McMaster University Department of Anesthesia in the past five years include significant faculty recruitment; a significant increase in contribution to education, research, and administration at the local, national and international levels; and the use of simulation technologies to teach clinical skills and to explore their potential use in distance medicine.  Below I will highlight our contribution to education.   For information on our research activities and publications, please visit their respective sites at this homepage.

accordion element Mission

The Department of Anesthesia at McMaster University along with other Canadian Academic Anesthesia Departments has the responsibility of providing leadership in the discipline of anesthesia. This is achieved through the conduct of fundamental and applied research. It is also achieved through a commitment to the highest level of teaching of students, colleagues and the public. Integral to these goals is the organization and provision of safe and effective services in anesthesia by competent and caring physicians.

accordion element Education and Administration

We have established a significant level of participation in undergraduate teaching. The anesthesia clerkship rotation has undergone significant alteration over the past five years, including the use of medium-fidelity clinical simulation, and has received consistently positive evaluations from students and faculty. This has occurred in the face of dramatically increasing number of undergraduate students at McMaster. The department has also recently assumed responsibility for the Critical Care Fellowship Training Program, which had previously not been overseen by any departmental administrative structure.

We are proud of our leadership role in simulation. The use of simulation to support our clerkship rotation provided a demonstration platform for other disciplines. Dr. David Musson, MD-Ph.D., social psychology, previously at the University of Texas at Austin Human Factors Lab, has become the academic leader for the Centre for Simulation Based Learning (CSBL).  In addition we support (20%) a clinical faculty member as a clinical specialist in simulation. The recent success in receiving substantial MOHLTC funding to support the interdisciplinary teaching at the CSBL places this centre at the forefront of Canadian interdisciplinary teaching, with a rigorous academic foundation for the activity.

We have been fortunate to have leadership roles within the department filled by a series of committed and effective individuals, some of whom have also gone on to other leadership positions.  Dr. Rob Whyte, our most recent past undergraduate program director, was in charge of a newly created position incorporating the MD clerkship, elective placements and clinical placements throughout the distributed campuses (Clinical Placement Liaison Office — CPLO). Now he is the Assistant Dean, Undergraduate MD Program. Dr. Greg Peachey, a former anesthesia postgraduate program director, was the Assistant Dean for Continuing Education. Dr. Alena Skrinskas and Dr. Joanna Reiber, McMaster Anesthesia Post-Graduate Program graduates and recent recruits to our Department, now share the anesthesia undergraduate program director role. Dr. James Paul has filled the position of associate chair (research). Dr. Fred Baxter, a former St. Joseph’s Healthcare (SJH) Clinical Chief was our most recent past Anesthesia Postgraduate Program Director. Dr Lori Olivieri is our current Anesthesia Postgraduate Program Director. Dr. Anne Wong is the Associate Chair of Education in the Department of Anesthesia and the Assistant Dean for the Program for Faculty Devevelopment for the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Dr. Richard McLean, immediate past Chief of Anesthesia at Hamilton Health Sciences (HHSC), has been appointed vice-president (medical) for Hamilton Health Sciences.

In the international forum, Professor Robert Lee has been invited to act as an "ambassador" for Problem Based Learning (PBL) in medical education to Taiwan and Malaysian universities: both requested his assistance in establishing PBL in their medical schools.  Dr. Janet Farrell is clinical chief at St. Joseph's Healthcare Hamilton. Dr. Alez Dauphin is the deputy chair of the Canadian Anesthesia Society International Educational Foundation (CAS-IEF). For many years Dr. Dauphin has contributed to anesthesia education in Haiti and more recently in Uganda. The department also supports Dr. Stephen Ttendo as an associate faculty member in our department.  He is chair and chief of anesthesia in Mbarara University, Uganda, and has made a significant impact on his profession in Uganda.  Each year one McMaster anesthesia resident is eligible for an elective in Uganda under his supervision.  The department trains residents from Haiti and Uganda at McMaster University at minimal cost.  Most importantly, the rate of return of these residents to their country of origin is 100%.  This type of return is essential if the quality of care in those countries is to be positively affected.

Dr. Lehana Thabane, a methodologist from the Department of Clinical Epidemiology, has joined the anesthesia department on a part-time basis to provide advice to our clinical faculty on research study design.  We also support 50% of a statistician to assist in design and analysis of research studies.  Faculty members are being supported for the pursuit of further education.  Three of our members have completed or pursuing Master’s degrees in epidemiology or education, and one has completed a Ph.D. in education at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education.  We have also supported other development including training in echocardiography.

We are proud of our faculty who have taken up leadership roles in continuing education at the provincial, national and international levels. Under the leadership of Dr. Chris Ricci, a small group of McMaster clinical faculty working with the Ontario Medical Association (OMA) executive and the other Ontario academic departments, has expanded the annual anesthesia section meeting of the OMA from fewer than 80 registrants five years ago to a meeting of nearly 400 registrants in 2009, with a full three-day academic program.  This is now the second largest meeting for anesthesia in Canada. Dr. Karen Raymer continues to lead the annual Can-Am anesthesia meeting in association with the University of Western Ontario and State University of New York at Buffalo. Dr. Dolly Bhola, along with Internal Medicine colleague Dr. Maria Tiboni, created the Canadian Perioperative Anesthesia and Medicine Meeting (CPAM). This is to date the only truly interdisciplinary meeting of its sort.

We sponsor regular city-wide rounds on a monthly basis, through unrestricted educational grants from pharmaceutical and equipment sponsors.  Peri-operative medicine rounds, held jointly with the Department of Medicine and the Department of Surgery, have attracted several hundred attendees.  Monthly pain rounds occur at the Pain Management Centre at the Barton Street site, attracting an interdisciplinary group and with speakers from Canada and the United States.  Regular journal clubs continue to be well attended. The associate chair (research) has instituted research evenings three to five times annually at which research protocols are discussed and reviewed prior to submission.  An annual "research retreat" updates members regarding activities within the department.  Professor Robert Lee has been a member of the organizing committee of the International Symposium on Resistance Arteries and has organized meetings in Canada, France, Australia and Denmark.

In addition to anesthesia service, the department continues to have a large number of members providing chronic pain care- the largest university affiliated pain management centre in Canada. This in turn attracts a large number of applicants for fellowship training positions. On a national level, members are involved in the process of Royal College certification in pain management (Buckley), special interest groups in interventional pain (Buckley, Park, Rhydderch) and pain education (Buckley) under the auspices of the Canadian Pain Society.

accordion element Relationships and Affiliations

The academic department is closely associated with the two clinical departments and their respective hospitals.  The department is a member of the Association of Canadian University Departments of Anesthesia (ACUDA). This national organization brings together chairs, postgraduate and undergraduate program directors, research directors and (as of 2009) continuing education directors from every university anesthesia department in Canada.  Many projects have been initiated at this level including a national curriculum in anesthesia and manpower studies informing ministries of health at the national and provincial levels. 

Our newest affiliation is with the anesthesiologists in St. Catharines and Cambridge. These two departments are supporting the regional medical school activities in St. Catharines and Waterloo respectively, and have entered actively into the business of teaching students and residents. We are very appreciative of their support and involvement.

Members of the department are involved at several levels (steering committee, data collection and review) in the interdisciplinary group under the leadership of Dr. P.J. Devereaux to carry out studies in peri-operative medicine (VISION, POISE II trials).  Through interaction with the University Health Network and a community-based software developer, Adjuvant Informatics, Dr. James Paul is part of a group developing an electronic database/pre-operative screening tool that will provide continuously updated risk assessment based upon best current evidence and revised according to actual outcome data.  We collaborate with McMaster's Program for Educational Research and Development, the School of Nursing and the School of Rehabilitation Science in interdisciplinary education and pain related studies. 

A special endowment from benefactor Michael G. DeGroote has recently been announced for a National Centre for Chronic Pain, as a third pillar to the Michael G. DeGroote Institute for Pain Research and Care at McMaster.  This was developed following a suggestion from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) to provide updating and implementation or "push-out" of pain practice guidelines. Dr. Thabane and Dr. Buckley are working with Lina Santaguida from the Centre for Evidence Based Practice in this pursuit, along with Rhoda Reardon and Dr. Angela Carol from the CPSO.

accordion element Strengths

The major strength of our department is the people.  Our faculty are intensely committed to the training of excellent clinicians. This commitment to education is reflected by the involvement of many of our graduates in recent years with the pedagogy of education, and willingness to be involved in both postgraduate and undergraduate teaching. This has led to innovative solutions to difficult educational problems and to impressive feedback from students and faculty alike.   We are solvent, and funding is available at the present time to support pilot projects in several areas.  We continue to be a popular site for fellowship training in pain management.

accordion element Goals

Our goals are to continue to expand our involvement and output in research and education through the implementation of a supportive infrastructure and recruitment of residents with a commitment to these areas.

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