The New Year’s Resolutions of a Committed Academic Anesthesiologist

Right around January 1, as I’m making the impossibly long list of New Year’s resolutions, I’ll take the opportunity to reflect, as I always do at this time of the year, upon how satisfying and varying this career has been.

Many of us, as leaders in academic anesthesia, have traveled similar paths. Our altruistic approach of what the journey is and what it takes to get there is driven in part by external forces; however, it is our innate desire to continue pursue excellence in all that we do.

Like you, my definition of excellence and what I intend to do next has had similar undertones throughout the various phases of my career:

  • I should eat better, lose some weight and get some exercise. I definitely want to be around to savor the results of all this hard work.
  • I should definitely be a more attentive parent. Time flies – it seems the kids were little just a few papers ago.
  • I should stay off my phone when the family is around. Besides, it’s getting harder to read the display.
  • I should definitely take this year to be a more connected and loving spouse.
  • I should definitely take a good vacation this year. Meetings are fun, but vacation would be so nice!
  • This year, I should resurrect a hobby!
  • I’ll start meditating.
  • I should reconnect with what made me want to be an anesthesiologist in the first place.
  • This year, I will definitely do more clinical work. It’s great to reconnect with one patient at a time. It’s a true honor to be invited into the lives of individuals at such a critical time. The ability to make a difference, one patient at a time is so immensely rewarding, and so important to the patient and their family.
  • I should work more on continuing professional development.
  • This year, I will re-commit myself to education. The opportunity to educate future generations is so important! Being able to positively impact our trainees, and, through them, thousands of future patients is an amazing opportunity and educating future anesthesiologists is a core mission.
  • I’ll refresh my resident lectures.
  • This year, I will definitely complete my resident evaluations on time. Timely, candid, actionable feedback is important for helping the residents I educate really learn the concepts of clinical anesthesia.
  • I should definitely be better about returning every email promptly.
  • This year, I will rekindle my science program. Creating new knowledge that improves the specialty is a true calling. By improving our science, academic anesthesiologists can positively impact thousands of current and future patients. This is what they mean by leverage!
  • I should work on being a more responsive and supportive mentor.
  • I should learn more about implicit bias and implement processes in my own conduct to minimize its impact on others around me as a result of the decisions I make.
  • I will be kinder to the other people I work with, and more attentive to the impact my moods, words and actions have on them.
  • I will work harder to project a positive attitude at work and to view events and people’s actions in a positive light.
  • I will deliberately practice professionalism.
  • I will be thoughtful and generous with philanthropy. In particular, I will support the organizations that support early career academic anesthesiologists.
  • It’s definitely time to take advocacy seriously, everywhere from local to nationally. Too many policy initiatives are swirling around to not be engaged. Engagement through advocacy and leadership participation are fundamental elements of professionalism.
  • I’ll attend my state society meeting.
  • I will take hand hygiene seriously – not just for myself, but for the others around me. I will serve as an exemplar, and not be afraid to challenge others when they miss hand hygiene opportunities.
  • This year, I will work hard to make a personal connection with each and every patient. I’ll sit at their level, learn their name, and leave them a way to contact me when we’re done conversing.
  • This year, I will definitely be careful about the cost of the care I provide.
  • I will thoughtfully follow my department’s ERAS protocols, make exceptions when important in tailoring care to unique patient needs, and suggest scientifically grounded ways to improve those protocols.
  • I’ll make time to read all of the literature in my field as it appears.

No two years have been the same, and while failure to keep even a few of these resolutions is inevitable, reflection on each prior year’s events shows many things a little better, a little sharper, a little more consistent, or just plain new and different than the year before. This constant change and development is the true gift of being an academic anesthesiologist.


Warren S. Sandberg, MD, PhD
Professor & Chair
Department of Anesthesiology
Vanderbilt University School of Medicine
Nashville, Tennessee