The making of an anesthesia historian: lessons from a worldwide biographical survey

UMMS Affiliation

Department of Anesthesiology

Publication Date


Document Type



Adult; Aged; Aged, 80 and over; *Anesthesiology; Data Collection; Female; *History of Medicine; Humans; Language; Male; Middle Aged; Questionnaires; Societies, Scientific


Anesthesiology | History of Science, Technology, and Medicine


BACKGROUND: There are few, if any, training opportunities for individuals wishing to pursue a career as an anesthesia historian. We surveyed anesthesia historians to learn about their training and experience, with an emphasis on mentoring, obstacles faced, and opportunities for improvement.

METHODS: Questionnaires were sent to 34 anesthesia historians in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia seeking information about demographics, medical training, training related to history, mentoring, research funding, obstacles faced, and suggestions for improvement.

RESULTS: The response rate exceeded 90%. The average age of respondents was 70 years, and 85% of the respondents were male. The majority of respondents resided in North America (68%). The rest were from Europe (21%), Australia (9%), and Asia (3%). Graduate training in history was reported by 6%. Thirty-eight percent considered themselves to be self-trained. Thirty-eight percent were recipients of fellowships from the Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology. Research guidance was obtained by 74% of respondents. Guidance came from a department chairman (24%), a member of the Wood Library-Museum staff (33%), or another source (43%). The 3 most common obstacles described were difficulty in obtaining funding for research activities (33%), academic recognition (20%), and availability of training and mentoring (18%). Areas identified as needing improvement were research funding (17%), exposure to anesthesia history during residency training (23%), academic recognition (26%), mentoring (17%), and promotion of anesthesia history (17%).

CONCLUSIONS: A study of history does not necessarily produce changes in clinical practice, which may limit the perceived value of historical study. The suggestions by these historians should help preserve the history and heritage of anesthesiology.

DOI of Published Version



Citation:Anesth Analg. 2011 Aug;113(2):383-6. doi: 10.1213/ANE.0b013e3182222b77. Link to article on publisher's site

Journal/Book/Conference Title

Anesthesia and analgesia

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Link to Article in PubMed

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