"Ronald K. Baker PhD, MD was a resident in the Department of Anesthesiology at the University of Arizona in the late 70s when I was a junior faculty member. We did many cases together, and I remember him well, and fondly, as an excellent resident and physician, always on top of things. He had an engaging personality, scraggly mustache, and a wry (sometimes smirky) smile and sense of humor. Like me, he was a bit quirky, with esoteric interests (I wasn’t surprised to learn he cared for distressed ferrets). He had excellent hands for procedures, but roughly hewn, as if he worked on cars or other labor-intensive hobbies in his spare time.
He had been a chemist and I queried him about van der Waals forces, the subtle quantum interactions by which anesthetic gases erase consciousness, still mysterious to this day. Favoring true ‘chemical’ bonds, Ron disdained the weak and evanescent quantum forces, and we debated their importance. I pressed him about microtubules inside neurons, which I believed (and still believe) mediate consciousness and anesthetic action. At that, Ron just smiled and smirked even more wryly.
The Department was new, having been a Division of Surgery until the mid 70s, and led by its founding Chairman, Burnell R. Brown Jr. PhD, MD. Like me, Ron had been recruited into Anesthesiology through Burnell’s broad-based intellect, humor and passion about the future of the field. Burnell joined in our discussions about anesthetic action, chemistry and physics, and a broad range of other topics, often between cases in the ‘doctor’s lounge’, literally a smoke-filled room with a large, central ash tray (how times have changed!). The field of Anesthesiology was also new, emerging from its role as ‘surgeon’s handmaiden’ into a specialty of its own. Our tools were primitive, before the days of pulse oximetry, capnography, automatic blood pressure cuffs, propofol, LMAs, ultrasound and ventilators. We spent much of our intra-operative time squeezing the ventilation bag and blood pressure cuff bulbs, a finger on the pulse, and an eye on the color of the lips and tongue.
I lost touch with Ron after his residency, but from what I’ve read, he had a happy and successful life and career in Colorado. I imagine he adapted well to the many advances in Anesthesiology, but presumed he remained, like me, ‘old school’ at heart.
Ron passed away in 2017 and generously bequeathed 8.8 million dollars to the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Department of Anesthesiology.
- Dr. Stuart Hameroff, MD
Congratulations to Dr. Amol Patwardhan MD, PhD for being selected for the College of Medicine's Cliical Excellence Award. These awards are awareded to faculty members who exceed all standards of clinical excellence and inspire us regarding how we should serve and care for patients. Dr. Patwardhan is the Co-Director of our Chronic Pain Management Clinic, he has been with our department since 2014.
New location for Department of Anesthesiology
The Department of Anesthesiology moved into its new operating rooms on Monday April 9th that are located on the 3rd floor of the recently dedicated Tower 1, a 9 story, 670,000 square foot hospital, part of the Banner University Medical Center Tucson expansion project. The new peri-operative space includes 22 state of the art operating rooms, including 2 hybrid ORs, dedicated regional block and procedure rooms, office space for the Board Runner, Peri-Operative Medical Director and Director for Clinical Operations. A new Anesthesiology Library contains computers for charting as well as space for breaks between cases. New on-call rooms are located in separate Resident and Attending call suites that are in close proximity to operating rooms and will be a comfortable place to rest between clinical duties. Tower 1 has a beautiful sunny cafeteria (Level 1) with indoor and outdoor seating options, a coffee bar (Level 2) with mountain views and an outdoor roof-top patio (Level 4), all within a minute’s walk from the operating rooms. Also located in Tower 1 are procedural areas including Cardiology laboratories (Cath and EP), Interventional Radiology, MRI and CT scanner (Level 2). Level 5 houses the new OB center with OB Triage, Labor and Delivery rooms, OB operating rooms and pre- and post-partum rooms. All Adult ICUs will eventually relocate to Tower 1, with MICU (Level 7) and Surgical ICU (Level 8) being the first to relocate. The Cardio-vascular ICU will move in early May (Level 6). Faculty and staff will have convenient parking in Parking Garage C located just to the west of Tower 1 main entrance.
Throughout his long career, Anesthesiology faculty and University of Arizona Professor Stuart Hameroff MD has studied the mechanism of action of anesthetic gases to unravel the mystery of consciousness. Hameroff’s proposed theoretical mechanism, that anesthetics erase consciousness by dampening quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons, is one of 3 theories listed in Wikipedia’s page ‘Theories of general anesthetic action’. See Link. And the theory of consciousness based on quantum vibrations in microtubules which Hameroff developed with Oxford physicist Sir Roger Penrose, ‘orchestrated objective reduction’ (‘Orch OR’) See Link, is one of 6 major theories of consciousness included in a project sponsored by the Templeton World Charity Foundation (TWCF). The project sets up adversarial collaboration among the theories, a kind of ‘playoff’ to find the ‘champion’ theory best supported by experimental evidence. Orch OR proponents Penrose and Hameroff, along with selected experimentalists, will face off against ‘Integrated Information Theory’ (‘IIT’) proponents Giulio Tononi (U Wisconsin) and Christof Koch (Allen Institute) in January in Tucson.
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University of Arizona Anesthesiology faculty Amol Patwardhan, MD, PhD and Mohab Ibrahim, MD, PhD both received notice of awards from NIH this month. Dr. Patwardhan, MD, PhD received an NIH-K08 Mentored Clinician-Scientist Award while Dr. Ibrahim, MD PhD was awarded an RO1. This marks the first time in many years that the Department of Anesthesiology has NIH funding.
Amol and Mohab represent the kind of success that can be achieved at the UA when clinician-scientists team up with outstanding basic scientists to tackle patient-related issues. Both investigators work closely with members of the Department of Pharmacology including Chairman Todd Vanderah, PhD; Frank Porreca, PhD, and Rajesh Khanna, PhD and Philip Malan, MD, PhD. (see https://pharmacology.arizona.edu/faculty). “This mentoring team has been a tremendous help for both Amol and Mohab and I am grateful for their dedication towards the development of these outstanding faculty members” said Dr. Dull. In fact, the depth of expertise on this mentoring team could not be found in most major research universities and is testament to the strength of our basic science department. The Departments of Anesthesiology and Pharmacology have enjoyed close ties for many years and we look forward to developing this collaboration into other clinically-relevant areas and leveraging this success in the recruitment of NIH-funded faculty into both departments.
Amol Patwardhan, MD, PhD
Dr. Patwardhan is an interventional pain physician, anesthesiologist and pharmacologist who studies novel mechanisms for inhibiting spinal pain transmission. His grant will assess the molecular mechanism by which contulakin-G (CGX), a peptide derived from snail venom, produces analgesia but without adversely affecting motor neuron function. Developing novel therapeutic compounds that are not related to opioids represent a huge opportunity in anesthesiology and neuro-pharmacology. Dr. Patwardhan and his team have proposed several hypotheses regarding the sites of action for CGX and plan to characterize the receptors and channels that are inhibited by CGX. A second major aspect of these studies is the observation that CGX does not result in tolerance, a common and rate limiting aspect of many pain medications. Characterizing how to avoid the development of tolerance for analgesics opens the possibility of improving the efficacy of existing analgesic drugs. We look forward to following the success of this very talented team of scientists.
Dr. Amol Patwardhan receives NIH Mentored Clinician-Scientist Award.
Mohab Ibrahim, MD PhD
Dr. Ibrahim is also an interventional pain physician, anesthesiologist and pharmacologist. His research focuses on the treatment of chronic pain in patients with HIV. Antiretroviral therapy, the mainstay of HIV treatment, is associated with an increased incidence of chronic pain. Dr. Ibrahim and his research team completed a pilot study to determine if different wavelengths of light have specific analgesic effect. They found that rats with chronic, HIV-related neuropathic pain experienced analgesia when exposed to green light in the range of 525 nm for 8 hours per day. In this 5-year NIH funded study, Dr. Ibrahim will study the mechanisms by which green light induces analgesia. Specifically, they will characterize neuroinflammatory pathways in the brain and spinal cord to understand how green light reduces neuropathic pain. Non-pharmacological therapies hold great promise for the treatment of chronic pain as they are cost-effective, devoid of most drug-related side effects and economically scalable for use in medically challenged areas, cultures and countries.