My First SEA Meeting

I cannot remember where my first Society for Education in Anesthesia meeting was held or how I got there. It must have been in 1998 or 1999. I do vividly remember coming down to breakfast at about 7:30 that first 
Michael Sandison, MD
Professor Emeritus 
Albany Medical College 
 morning and walking into animated committee meetings already in progress. I noticed one particularly large group brainstorming about upcoming meetings. I sat at an adjacent empty table and listened to the conversation. They were talking about themes for future meetings, possible speakers, interesting workshops and potential venues. I was struck by their enthusiasm, creativity and belief in the organization’s relevance and future. I had found “my people”.

Those people turned out to include Kathy King and Cathy Kuhn from Duke. At that time the Residency Review Committee had mandated that the departmental chair serve also as Program Director. Many chairs designated a faculty member as “Director of Education” or some such title. I had just been appointed to this “Quasi-PD” position by my outgoing chair at Albany Medical College. My predecessor, Kevin Roberts, had been appointed Acting Chair of the department. As he handed me a SEA newsletter, he offered me two words of advice for the new role: “Join SEA.”

I was woefully unprepared for this new position. Although I was regarded as a decent teacher by the residents and faculty, my approach to teaching was based simply on emulating my best teachers at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. That first SEA meeting opened my eyes to the discipline of pedagogy and the possibility of a career in anesthesiology education. I returned home after that meeting recharged with a sense of direction, possibility and purpose.

Several meetings followed. I started making notes entitled: “Ideas from SEA”. The oldest list that I found was from the Spring Meeting of 2000, and it included a talk by Phil Lui entitled “Characteristics of Extraordinary Anesthesiologists: Implications for Anesthesia Education”. I later adapted that talk for inclusion in our introductory didactic program. Other entries in my notes include, “Look up the full Bloom’s Taxonomy”, (testimony to my lack of preparation as an educator) and “Writing is Thinking”.

That meeting led to my attending the SEA Workshop on Teaching, where I encountered people like Gary Loyd, Melissa Davidson, and Mike Olympio. This workshop laid the foundation for my ongoing education and professional development.

Over the next twenty years, SEA spring and fall meetings followed in places like Cleveland; Montreal; Harrisburg; Washington, DC; Nashville, and Santa Fe; with some of the best meetings being held in smaller cities, which I would never have thought to visit. “Dine Arounds” hosted by local SEA members gave me an insider’s perspective and a better appreciation of this vast and varied country. Friendships and collaborations followed. These relationships blossomed into mentorships and provided opportunities both to support and to be supported by others in the Society.

SEA has been central to the development of my professional career as an anesthesiology educator. I am grateful that I took Kevin’s advice to attend that first meeting.
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