DR. Hannah Wunsch has been selected as the 2016 American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Presidential Scholar. Although Hannah’s primary appointment is now in the Department of Anesthesia at the University of Toronto, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, she completed all of her training at Columbia in my department, was on the Columbia faculty until 2014, and still maintains an active appointment in the department at Columbia. I was, therefore, delighted to act as the nominating chair. I should note that as of July 1, 2016, I became the E.M. Papper Professor Emerita of Anesthesiology. Hannah is an outstanding candidate for this award, and I can imagine no better individual to be honored by the ASA for her contributions to research within Anesthesia and Critical Care Medicine.
Hannah was one of the first Apgar scholars at Columbia. We created the Apgar Scholars Program at Columbia in 2002 specifically to attract residents such as Hannah who were committed to pursuing a career in academic medicine and recognized, and were willing to commit, the additional time and effort to receive appropriate rigorous research training after completing their residency training. Hannah is a stellar example of the benefits of the Apgar Program, which has now trained many fellows who have gone on to start successful careers as academic anesthesiologists. Perhaps the strongest endorsement of Hannah and the program is that Hannah herself has gone on to mentor the next generation of anesthesiologists, creating a multiplicative effect of the Apgar Program.
Hannah completed her anesthesiology residency training in June 2007 and directly entered our critical care medicine fellowship program; in 2008, Hannah joined the faculty as an instructor in anesthesiology. She was promoted to assistant professor on the tenure track a year later. She held a joint appointment as an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology (Mailman School of Public Health, New York, New York), a clear endorsement of her academic stature. She moved to the University of Toronto in July 2014, where she was promoted (after just 5 yr on faculty) to Associate Professor of Anesthesia.
Hannah was the recipient of a Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research Fellowship grant in 2008 and used the time and funding from this grant to produce important work on long-term outcomes after critical illness that was published in JAMA. More recently, Hannah went on to receive a K08 award from the National Institute of Aging (Washington, DC), and later a named endowed assistant professorship (the Herbert Irving Assistant Professor) while at Columbia. She is now an established independent investigator, securing federal funding from Canada on her first attempt. Hannah has an absolute commitment to an academic career in anesthesiology and critical care medicine. She is innovative, creative, intelligent, and hardworking, and a wonderful role model for young physician-scientists in anesthesiology.
Hannah’s work has already had an outsized influence on the field of health services research in critical care. She has published her work in the highest-impact journals, including three original articles in JAMA, two editorials in JAMA, and many publications in other high-impact publications such as Anesthesiology, BMJ, and the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine—over 100 publications in all. Her work, on the organization and delivery of critical care, as well as long-term outcomes after critical illness, has been highly cited. In particular, she has significantly increased our understanding of the impact of resource availability for critical care across countries and contributed to the drive to determine appropriate resource availability for future pandemics; her work on outcomes after critical illness has highlighted the high mortality of the elderly in this setting and has focused attention on the importance of the identification of risk factors and appropriate interventions to improve outcomes.
Hannah is also an outstanding representative and contributor to the specialty of anesthesiology. She has given grand rounds in many anesthesiology departments at major U.S. research intensive medical schools, and she is called on to speak at many international critical care meetings, routinely joining the faculty of the major European and North American meetings. She has just stepped down as the Chair of the Scientific Review Committee for the Society of Critical Care Medicine, overseeing the grant review process for the Society’s Vision Grants. Finally, Hannah is an associate editor for the American Journal of Respiratory & Critical Care Medicine and is on the editorial boards of Anesthesiology and Intensive Care Medicine.
Hannah is a superb ambassador for anesthesia within the broader field of critical care medicine. She is clearly a rising star and future leader of our specialty of whom I am personally enormously proud, and by naming her as this year’s ASA Presidential Scholar; our entire specialty indicates its pride in Hannah and the specialty’s confidence and expectations of her future and continuing contributions to the specialty of anesthesiology. We are fortunate that the specialty continues to attract and excite outstanding physicians like Dr. Hannah Wunsch.
The author declares no competing interests.