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Sukumar P. Desai, MD


Over the past two decades, the focus of my investigative effort has shifted from basic and clinical science to history of medicine. Our specialty is the only major medical discipline that clearly has its origins in America, and events leading to the discovery of anesthesia occurred over a very limited period in the mid-19th century. These events have been documented well, and there exists a significant amount of primary and secondary source material. Moreover, ours is perhaps the only medical discipline with a peer-reviewed medical journal dedicated exclusively to history of anesthesia –  Journal of Anesthesia History. Our national professional association, American Society of Anesthesiologists, supports one of the largest repositories of artifacts and reference material related to history of anesthesia –  Wood Library-Museum of Anesthesiology, located in Schaumburg, Illinois.

Opportunities to investigate various aspects of the history of our specialty are plentiful, as are options to present research findings – annual meetings of the Anesthesia History Association [USA based] and the History of Anaesthesia Society [UK based]. Moreover, history-based presentations are welcome at meetings of the American Society of Anesthesiologists and similar meetings in other parts of the world. The International Symposium on the History of Anesthesia (ISHA) is held every four years, the most recent one was co-hosted by me and held in Boston in 2017.

Members of our department have participated in each of the venues described above, and our department has been extremely productive in research presentations and publications. Furthermore, our department conducts history of anesthesia tours each year, not only for members of our department but also for visitors from other departments. For the past 4 years, we have hosted  members of the department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care, Johns Hopkins University, for their annual history tour. An added highlight to their visit is a combined history-based journal club in which trainees from each department present historical papers.

History based research is not impeded by geographical barriers, and this has allowed me to conduct collaborative investigations with team members in other parts of the US, and in the UK, Italy, India, and Japan. The result has been approximately 50 peer reviewed publications.

Sukumar P. Desai, MD

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