We all have patient encounters that change us. Mine came during my second year of anesthesiology residency. I was on call in the ICU, and our team admitted a woman who went into heart failure immediately after giving birth. Her heart function was so poor that she needed a ventricular assist device to survive. Over the next few days her cardiac output improved and we were able to send her home with her baby.

This unique case focused my attention on the challenges of caring for the critically ill peripartum population. As I prepare to start my obstetric anesthesiology fellowship next summer, caring for the critically ill parturient has become a focus of mine.

Obstetric anesthesiology, having recently become ACGME accredited in 2011, is a relatively new fellowship. In its official curriculum outlining the educational requirements and goals for fellows pursuing obstetric anesthesiology, the ACGME states that fellows must “demonstrate...

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