During the mid-1960s in response to a manpower shortage and concerns over the increasing complexity of anesthesia and surgery, Drs. Gravenstein, Steinhaus and Volpitto1 created the concept of anesthesiologist assistant. They designed an educational program whereby matriculants would build on an undergraduate premedical education then obtain a masters degree in anesthesiology. In their white paper, the authors wrote, "Responsibility and immediate care of the patient must remain within the province of the anesthesiologist; consequently, personnel could not work independently but only under the immediate direction of an anesthesiologist. An advantage in manpower for the anesthesiologist would result, as he could provide attention to several patients with the proper employment of the anesthesia team, described above."
Since its beginning, the Emory program sought to produce a new type of anesthetist, the anesthesiologist assistant, whose clinical and technological skills complement the traditional medical role of the anesthesiologist. This new type of anesthetist has advanced the quality and efficiency of care delivered by the anesthesia care team. The basic science education in anatomy, physiology, biochemistry, pharmacology, biophysics, and medical instrumentation, along with intensive clinical training, prepared the graduates to become knowledgeable skilled practitioners and participate as valuable members of the anesthesia care team.
The current program graduates approximately 30 anesthesiologist assistants each year. Approximately ten percent of the program's graduates have entered medical school, and of those, over ninety percent have completed residencies in anesthesiology. Approximately two percent of graduates have pursued graduate school in the basic sciences, dental school, or law school.
1. Gravenstein JS, Steinhaus JE, Volpitto PP. Analysis of manpower in anesthesiology. Anesthesiology 33(3): 350-7, 1970.
2. Steinhaus JE, Evans JA, Frazier WT. The physician assistant in anesthesiology. Anesthesia and Analgesia. 52(5): 7949, 1973.