Residency programs in anesthesiology in the United States struggle to balance the conflicting needs of formal didactic sessions, clinical teaching, and clinical service obligations. As a consequence of the explosion in knowledge about basic and applied sciences related to our specialty, residents and fellows are expected to make substantial efforts to supplement formal lectures with self-study. There is strong evidence to suggest that members of the younger generation use nontraditional methods to acquire information. Although training programs are not required to include topics related to history of anesthesia (HOA) in the didactic curriculum, and despite the fact that such knowledge does not directly impact clinical care, many programs include such lectures and discussions. We describe and discuss our experience with 3 alternate modalities of teaching HOA.
First, we provide brief descriptions of HOA-related historical narratives and novels within the domain of popular literature, rather than those that might be considered textbooks. Second, we analyze content in movies and videodiscs dealing with HOA and determine their utility as educational resources. Third, we describe HOA tours to sites in close proximity to our institutions, as well as those in locations elsewhere in the United States and abroad.
We suggest that informal HOA teaching can be implemented by every residency program without much effort and without taking away from the traditional curriculum. Participating in this unique and enriching experience may be a means of academic advancement. It is our hope and expectation that graduates from programs that incorporate such exposure to HOA become advocates of history and may choose to devote a part of their academic career toward exploration of HOA.