Annual Conference Positions Duke Anesthesiology as Premiere Education Destination

For the first time in eighteen years, Duke Anesthesiology is bringing its annual conference “back home.” As the excitement continues to build within the department for “Controversies in Perioperative Medicine,” set to kick-off on September 9 at the prestigious Washington Duke Inn & Golf Club in Durham, we sit down for a one-on-one interview with one of the program directors, Dr. Madhav Swaminathan, who highlights the four new changes that attendees will notice at this year’s conference — changes that are sure to excite the participants and create some memorable moments.

Why is perioperative medicine significant in today’s health care?

The importance of the perioperative period cannot be overstated in the current healthcare environment. There is a critical need for collaborations that reach across disciplines and providers to ensure the best outcomes for our patients. We, as health care professionals, need to be more engaged in order to offer more meaningful patient-centric care. The earlier paradigm of providers focusing mainly on the intraoperative phase and not at either end of the surgery is changing.

Perioperative medicine is an emerging specialty and encompasses the whole continuum of the surgical experience. Starting with the preoperative period, the condition that the patient presents for surgery is managed throughout the entire process. It has come a long way ever since we’ve started thinking about surgery as a continuum rather than individual silos for each stage. In today’s health care environment, it’s all about being patient-centric and taking care of a disease process centered around the patient from start to finish. As anesthesia providers, we are very well equipped to lead perioperative medicine.

Why is it important to discuss issues surrounding the management of patients undergoing surgery?

Now more than ever, various types of providers in multiple disciplines are interacting with patients along this continuum of surgery. Health care providers involved in the perioperative care of patients may range from not only physicians, but also trainees, residents, fellows, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, nursing assistants, pharmacists, nutritionists, dieticians, and technicians. When we start thinking of ourselves as leaders in perioperative medicine, I think it’s important that we bring practitioners of various kinds and disciplines together to discuss all of these issues. As I mentioned before, we’ve been practicing in silos for years. When we start looking after patients throughout this perioperative period, bringing people together to discuss all of these issues helps everyone to understand their role in the context of the field.

How did the conference first come about 18 years ago and how has it evolved since then?

This conference was the brainchild of former Duke Anesthesiology chairman, Dr. Mark Newman, who in 1998 was the division chief of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology and is now the president of Duke Health’s Private Diagnostic Clinic (PDC). His vision was to establish Duke Anesthesiology as a premiere education destination, featuring providers of quality education in the field of anesthesiology.

Over the course of the past eighteen years, we’ve experimented with a number of topical issues. In 1998, the focus was on cardiothoracic surgery, anesthesia and transesophageal echocardiography (TEE), a growing and niche field at the time. It has since matured and other areas of anesthesiology have grown rapidly. The conference focus evolved to other areas of perioperative medicine practice. This year specifically, we’ve morphed into a perioperative brand, consistent with the changing pattern of perioperative health care in today’s medicine. The conference is more inclusive of other subspecialties, but it still retains the essential principle of being recognized as a high quality educational experience.

What sets this year’s conference apart from past Duke Anesthesiology conferences?

First, this year’s conference is multidisciplinary and appeals to a variety of health care providers, including anyone involved in the perioperative care of patients. Second, it is now taking place in the fall and in Durham, North Carolina – back “home” for the first time in eighteen years – as opposed to a destination setting. Finally, the timing has changed, the content has changed, the focus has changed, and the location has changed. But Dr. Newman’s underlying vision has remained the same, which is why it’s still Duke Anesthesiology’s 18th annual conference.

How is this conference different than other CME conferences focused on perioperative medicine?

Currently, there are very few conferences exclusively on perioperative medicine. What sets Duke Anesthesiology’s conference apart are the faculty debates, attendee engagement, and our focus on controversies. As opposed to simply discussing topics, we’ve left it open for experts in their field to debate different point of views, thereby emphasizing the fact that perioperative medicine is not as cut and dry or black and white as it may seem. There are several gray areas in the management of patients undergoing surgery. Over the course of three days, we are bringing together experts to discuss some important controversies in a more entertaining fashion via lectures, panel discussions, lively debates and hands-on practical workshops.

What are you most excited to hear presented at this year’s conference and why?

Duke Anesthesiology’s Dr. Sol Aronson’s presentation on “How Perioperative Medicine Brings Value to the Health System” is something that will be extremely informative and invaluable. On Friday, September 9th at 12:30 p.m., he will discuss the evolving direction of today and tomorrow’s health care and suggest ways for how we can remain relevant in the field as we head into changing policy environments.

Why is it important for physicians to attend this conference?

Physicians will get a lot of value out of attending this conference and have the opportunity to network with other providers who practice perioperative medicine. First, they will hear expert opinions on a variety of controversial topics in perioperative medicine, such as safe opioid prescribing practices, which is very much in the news today given the current opioid epidemic in America. Second, conference attendees will be exposed to a breadth of issues in various fields ranging from pain management, hemodynamic management, transfusion medicine, and critical care management. Third, for a more hands-on experience, this meeting will also feature regional anesthesia workshops and a simulation session on emergency management. With the continued need for ongoing education and skills training in a safe environment, simulation has become a mainstay of medical training.

Finally, the conference is taking place in Durham which is known as a health care leader within the United States and a desirable location year-round. Referred to as the “City of Medicine,” Durham has more than 300 medical and health-related companies, medical centers, and pharmaceutical research companies located within its borders. Among that list of medical centers, Duke University Hospital is consistently included on the Honor Roll of top hospitals in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. In the magazine’s 2015-16 listings, this flagship hospital in the Duke University Health System was ranked #14 nationally, #1 in North Carolina, and #1 in the Raleigh-Durham area. This conference will also feature social events that will allow valuable face time with other attendees, faculty and vendors in a relaxed atmosphere.

How do you hope participants will use the information they learned at the conference?

After listening to all of the excellent topics and debates presented at this year’s conference, I’m hoping that participants will be able to incorporate some of the newfound knowledge into their own practices and will use some guidelines to improve the management of patients in the perioperative period. When taking care of patients, they’ll also hopefully better understand the roles played by various health care providers in associated fields. The awareness of these different perioperative practitioners is invaluable and I hope it will lead to improved communication between these providers as well.

Click here to learn more and register today for the 18th Annual Controversies in Perioperative Medicine conference.

For general conference questions or if you would like to discuss industry sponsorship opportunities, please contact Jaime Cooke, program coordinator, at 919-681-6532 or

Chris KeithAnnual Conference Positions Duke Anesthesiology as Premiere Education Destination