ASRA Recognizes Eight Trailblazers as Part of the Year of Women in ASRA

Eight trailblazing women in regional anesthesia and pain medicine are being honored for their achievements and contributions to the field as part of the ASRA Trailblazer Awards.

The recipients are:

  • Magdalena Anitescu, MD, PhD, professor in the department of anesthesia and critical care, section of pain medicine, University of Chicago, Illinois
  • May Chin, MD, professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine in the department of anesthesiology at the George Washington University Medical Center in Washington, DC
  • Mercedes Concepcion, MD, associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA
  • Kayser Enneking, MD, professor in the departments of anesthesiology and orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Florida College of Medicine in Gainesville
  • Terese Horlocker, MD, professor of anesthesiology and orthopedics at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN
  • Anahi Perlas, MD, FRCPC, professor in the department of anesthesia at the University of Toronto and anesthesiologist at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada
  • Gina Votta-Velis, MD, PhD, associate professor of clinical anesthesiology and surgery at the University of Illinois at Chicago and anesthesiologist at Jesse Brown West Side Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, IL
  • Denise J. Wedel, MD, professor of anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, MN.

ASRA Trailblazer Award recipients were selected for their accomplishments in one or more of the following areas:

  • Growth of a subspecialty of regional anesthesia or pain medicine
  • Evolution of the knowledge base that guides practice
  • Enhancement of education programs
  • Significant changes in governance or the political milieu for regional anesthesia or pain medicine
  • New understanding of pain mechanisms or of regional anesthesia
  • Mentoring and/or sponsoring women colleagues and/or trainees
  • Improved patient care, satisfaction, and outcomes.

The ASRA Trailblazer Awards were created for 2020 to acknowledge any potential for bias in the past regarding recognition awards. This award is just one component of the “Year of Women in ASRA,” so named by ASRA President Dr. Eugene Viscusi. Other components of the campaign include year-round highlights of prominent women in the field on the ASRA website and social media channels, greater recognition of gender disparities at meetings, improved data collection to continue to assess our progress representing the field, and, most importantly, development of an organizational plan to identify and correct disparities across all minority groups and work toward becoming a more inclusive organization.

Women compose about a quarter of all ASRA members, consistent with the overall field, but the percentage of younger female physicians is rising quickly, with women outnumbering men among trainees. A 2019 assessment of female inclusion in ASRA activities noted positive marks in activities such as meeting and course faculty, committee membership, and special interest group leadership. However, in top leadership and awards, men were disproportionally represented. The one-time Trailblazer Awards campaign is just one mechanism to address that discrepancy, but, moving forward, concerted effort to include female nominees across all of ASRA’s activities is critical.

A special committee selected the recipients from a total of 42 nominated individuals. “We were truly amazed and inspired by the outstanding accomplishments of all the nominees,” said judging member Tina Doshi, MD, who is also the chair of the Women in Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine SIG. “Every nomination was itself a testament to the profound impact of women on our field. Selecting the Trailblazers was certainly not an easy decision for the judging panel, but each individual was deemed particularly influential in the history of the field over the past 40 years.”

Trailblazer recipients were notified on March 10th and invited to attend either the 45th Annual Regional Anesthesiology and Acute Pain Medicine Meeting in San Francisco, which has since been cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, or the 19th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting , which is planned for November 19-21, 2020, in Las Vegas. Additional recognition activities are being considered given the spring meeting cancellation.

“What’s important to remember is that all of the ASRA awards programs must be inclusive of all members of ASRA regardless of sex, race, religion, national origin, or sexual/gender identity,” Dr. Viscusi said, “This is our humble attempt to make up for potential oversight in the past. But we ask all members to take responsibility for putting forth deserving candidates for awards to ensure that ASRA is a leader in diversity and inclusion.”


ASRA Trailblazer: Magdalena Anitescu, MD, PhD

 Dr. Anitescu is a professor of anesthesia and critical care, program director for the multidisciplinary pain medicine fellowship, and section chief of pain management services at the University of Chicago Medicine in Chicago, IL. She completed a surgical internship at the University of Iowa and an anesthesia residency at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. Following a pain medicine fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic, she joined the faculty at the University of Chicago. She is an accomplished national and international educator, author of numerous textbook chapters and scientific papers, and a member of many professional organizations, editorial boards, and scientific committees that review the academic curriculum for various pain medicine meetings. She developed and edited a series of textbooks for anesthesiology subspecialties based on the problem-based mode of learning. Dr. Anitescu focuses research on improving the quality of life of patients with acute, chronic, or cancer pain through multimodal, multifaceted interventions as well as use of infusion pharmacology and neuromodulation.

As program director of pain medicine at the University of Chicago, Dr. Anitescu created novel educational experiences by organizing and hosting interdisciplinary and multi-institutional meetings.  Among them are the Chicago Annual Pain Summit (CAPS), now in its fifth consecutive year, the bi-annual Regional Collaborative Case Conference, and multidisciplinary rounds.  Their aim is to give pain fellows access to the knowledge of other institutions to exchange ideas or to present scholarly work and clinically challenging cases.

Dr. Anitescu is the president-elect of the Association of Anesthesiology Subspecialty Program Directors, in the Society of Academic Associations of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine.  As an initial council board member and current president-elect of the Association of Pain Program Directors, Dr. Anitescu’s efforts were directed to the pain medicine match and development of educational materials for pain fellows nationwide. Her program is the recipient of the 2019 American Academy of Pain Medicine’s Pain Fellowship of Excellence award.

Dr. Anitescu is the chair of the Scientific/Education Planning Committee for ASRA’s 19th Annual Pain Medicine Meeting in November 2020. In 2020, she was named one of eight ASRA Trailblazers, a one-time award given to women pioneers in pain medicine.


ASRA Trailblazer: May Chin, MD

Dr. Chin is a professor of anesthesiology and critical care medicine at the George Washington University Medical Center, Washington DC and co-director of GW Spine and Pain Center. Dr. Chin spearheaded the development of the Acute Pain Service and the practice of pain medicine at George Washington University Medical Center more than 20 years ago.

Her current clinical and research interests include multimodal analgesia and innovative pharmacologic and interventional techniques for management of neuropathic pain. Dr. Chin’s “words of wisdom” to junior faculty is to be open and willing to try and learn different things. “Years ago, when my chair asked me to help out in chronic pain, I jumped right in,” Chin says. “At the time, pain medicine was not as developed a subspecialty as it is now. I have straddled acute and chronic pain for many years and this venture has been educational and inspiring. I continue to enjoy imparting a sense of adventure and curiosity to residents and medical students as I encourage them to be versatile and engage in lifelong learning.”

Dr. Chin earned her medical degree at the University of Melbourne, Australia. She trained in anesthesiology at the GW University Medical Center and underwent fellowship training in critical care medicine at the University of Maryland and in pediatric anesthesia at the Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC  She served as president of the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) Component Society for Maryland and the District of Columbia, the ASA Regional Anesthesia and Pain Medicine Committees, the American Medical Association advisory board for CME on pain, Anesthesia & Analgesia editorial board, and the American Board of Anesthesiology as an associate board examiner. She has published and authored on topics in acute and chronic pain and she frequently presents and lectures at ASA, the American Academy of Pain Medicine, and ASRA.


ASRA Trailblazer: Mercedes Concepcion, MD

Dr. Concepcion has been an anesthesiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, since 1980. She is an associate professor of anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and the director of the international medical mission division at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She also has served as chief of the division of General Operative Services since 2004. 

Dr. Concepcion performed her residency at McGill University and a fellowship at Notre Dame Hospital in Montreal, Canada.

In 1983, Dr. Concepcion established the regional anesthesia service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and she has said that from the beginning she has had a passion for regional anesthesia that has dominated her career. She has trained a large number of residents and fellows including many fellows who have gone on to start regional anesthesia programs throughout the United States and Canada and are well-known nationally and internationally.

Dr. Concepcion has also been involved in a number of international missions to developing countries and participated in the development of an International Medical Mission Division, which has been approved by the ACGME as part of Brigham and Women’s residency program. “I believe that this is an important part of their training in terms of helping them to understand and deal with cultural differences and, to increase their knowledge of the needs of [developing] countries,” she said.


ASRA Trailblazer: F. Kayser Enneking, MD

 Dr. Enneking is a professor in the departments of anesthesiology and orthopedics and rehabilitation at the University of Florida (UF) College of Medicine in Gainsville.  She earned her medical degree at the University of Florida, completed her residency in anesthesiology at the University of Texas, and completed her fellowship in regional anesthesiology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA.

Dr. Enneking joined UF in 1991 as an assistant professor in the department of anesthesiology and rose through the ranks until she became the chair of the department of anesthesiology and assistant dean for clinical affairs for the UF College of Medicine. Among the positions she held was the division chief for regional anesthesia and acute pain medicine. Many residents and fellows were trained under her, and they went on to spread her legacy around the country.

Dr Enneking’s strong interest in regional anesthesia for orthopedic surgeries and ambulatory anesthesia led to the development of novel analgesic techniques for these patient populations. She has published more than 50 scholarly works in this area and mentored regional anesthesia fellows and junior faculty members.

She won several awards including the TW Andersen Teaching Award and the Haven Perkins Lifetime Achievement Award, and she has also served on the ASRA Board of Directors.


ASRA Trailblazer: Terese Horlocker, MD

Dr. Horlocker is a professor of anesthesiology and orthopedics at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, MN. Dr. Horlocker’s prolific scholarly career in addition to her extensive service in ASRA and the American Society of Anesthesiologists has earned numerous distinctions including the Distinguished Service Award in 2009 and the Gaston Labat Award in 2011.

Dr. Horlocker has served multiple roles on ASRA’s Board of Directors in addition to her service as ASRA president. Her other contributions include chairing the Education and CME Committee, serving as an editorial board member for Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine, and being section editor for Anesthesia and Analgesia. To date, her most clinically impactful work includes spearheading the effort for the development of the guidelines for regional anesthesia in patients receiving antithrombotic or thrombolytic therapy.


ASRA Trailblazer: Anahi Perlas, MD, FRCPC

 Dr. Perlas is a professor of anesthesia at the University of Toronto and staff anesthesiologist at Toronto Western Hospital in Canada. As director of the Clinical Regional Anesthesia Program at the Toronto Western Hospital, she led a growing team of clinicians through a time of rapid expansion of clinical services. She is currently an executive editor for the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine and is a former member of the ASRA Board of Directors.

Dr. Perlas has developed a point-of-care application of sonography to evaluate gastric content and volume at the bedside to inform aspiration risk assessment. She collaborates with other clinical researchers locally, nationally, and internationally to fully validate this clinical tool in obese and non-obese adults, children and pregnant women. Her method and framework of gastric content evaluation is being rapidly adopted into anesthesia residency curricula locally as well as internationally. The groundwork for this development has been supported by several peer-reviewed grants from the American Society of Anesthesiologists, the Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation, and the Canadian Society of Anesthesiologists. Dr. Perlas has published over 70 peer-reviewed articles related to both research focus areas and lectures often at national and international events.


ASRA Trailblazer: Effronssyni (Gina) Votta-Velis, MD, PhD

 Dr. Votta-Velis is an associate professor of clinical anesthesiology and surgery at the University of Illinois in Chicago where she also serves as the director of the pain medicine fellowship. She is also an anesthesiologist at Jesse Brown West Side Veterans Administration Hospital in Chicago, IL.

Dr. Votta-Velis has expertise in all areas of pain medicine, and her research interests have included the study of gene therapy for pain and mechanisms of neuropathic pain. She has received several national and international awards in addition to many research grants for her pioneer work on perioperative pain management/anesthesia and cancer recurrence. In 2018, she received the ASRA Carl Koller Memorial Research Grant for her project “Lidocaine Infusions in Pancreatic Cancer: Translational Studies in a Preclinical Model and Human Subjects.”

In addition to serving on the ASRA Board of Directors, Dr. Votta-Velis has been involved in educational activities for ASRA, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and the European Society of Regional Anaesthesia and Pain Therapy. She has authored multiple peer-reviewed articles and book chapters and she is currently serving on the editorial board of the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine. She is frequently invited to lecture in national and international meetings.


ASRA Trailblazer: Denise J. Wedel, MD

 Dr. Wedel is a professor of anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science and emeritus in the department of anesthesiology and perioperative medicine at Mayo Clinic. She earned her undergraduate and medical degrees from the University of Minnesota and performed her residency at the Mayo Graduate School of Medicine. She completed her fellowship at Virginia Mason Hospital in Seattle, WA. Dr. Wedel served as president of ASRA from 1997-1998 and later was the chair of the Education Committee. She has also received the Gaston Labat Award and the Distinguished Service Award. She is a prolific author and presenter and currently serves as a reviewer for Anesthesia & Analgesia.

When it comes to mentoring, Dr. Wedel humbly admits that the most important thing with mentoring is that once the mentor has taught the mentee, the mentor then must step aside to allow the mentee to shine. Over her career, she has been recognized as a leader in the field of regional anesthesia and acute pain medicine.

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