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Avidan named head of anesthesiology

Also will become anesthesiologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

by Jim DrydenMay 10, 2019

Matt Miller

Michael S. Avidan, MBBCh, has been named head of the Department of Anesthesiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In that position, he also will become anesthesiologist-in-chief at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. Avidan will begin in his new role July 1.

Avidan currently is the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor of Anesthesiology at the School of Medicine. His new appointment was announced by David H. Perlmutter, MD, executive vice chancellor for medical affairs, the George and Carol Bauer Dean of the School of Medicine, and the Spencer T. and Ann W. Olin Distinguished Professor.

“We are fortunate that Michael, a distinguished clinician-scientist, has agreed to take on the leadership of what already is one of the most successful and innovative anesthesiology programs in the U.S.,” Perlmutter said. “I’m confident he will build on the great work that current department head Alex Evers has done in that role for the past 27 years.”

Avidan is director of the Division of Clinical and Translational Research; director of the department’s Infrastructure for Quality Improvement, Research and Informatics; and co-director of the Anesthesiology Postdoctoral Research Training Program.

He succeeds Alex S. Evers, MD, who became interim head of anesthesiology in 1992 and assumed the permanent post in 1994.

“I want to thank Alex Evers for his extraordinary leadership over many years,” Perlmutter said. “His accomplishments with faculty, staff and trainees have led to seminal and innovative advances in operative and perioperative care, as well as in intensive care and pain management, and have enhanced Washington University’s reputation as a world leader in medicine and health care.”

Avidan’s research delves into many areas of anesthesiology and intensive care practice. He has focused particularly on investigating the effectiveness of interventions to prevent neurologic complications associated with surgery and general anesthesia. From 2006 through 2012, he led three large clinical trials in the U.S. and Canada that focused on the prevention of intraoperative awareness, when patients regain consciousness to the point where they retain memories of surgery. The findings from those studies have been widely disseminated, including in two highly cited papers in The New England Journal of Medicine, and have had a major impact on monitoring techniques now widely employed during surgery. He also led an international, multicenter trial, with results published in Lancet, that provided strong evidence that administering a low dose of the drug ketamine during surgery probably does not prevent delirium or pain postoperatively.

“I am proud and honored to receive the baton from Dr. Evers, who has been a remarkably successful chair for 27 years, and to embrace the challenge of building upon the clinical and research excellence of the department,” Avidan said.

Avidan’s other key research activities have included studies that led to the recognition that surgery and anesthesia are unlikely to hasten the onset of dementia or accelerate cognitive decline in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. He also is implementing and studying the impact of a telemedicine “control tower” that takes advantage of artificial intelligence and machine-learning techniques to allow anesthesia clinicians to monitor anesthesia care in many operating rooms concurrently.

“We want to know whether the anesthesiology control tower can complement the care provided by clinicians in the operating room,” Avidan explained. “Our overarching goal is to enhance the quality of perioperative care and to contribute meaningfully to patient safety and outcomes.”

Avidan was born in South Africa. He earned his MBBCh, the equivalent of an MD, in 1991 from the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg. He completed his residency in anesthesiology and intensive care in South Africa and received fellowship certification from the South African College of Medicine in 1996. From 1997 to 2000, he served as a clinical lecturer in cardiothoracic anesthesiology and general adult intensive care at King’s College Hospital in London.

He joined the faculty at the School of Medicine in 2001 and rose to the rank of full professor in 2011. Avidan has held several leadership positions in the department, including director of the cardiothoracic anesthesiology fellowship program and director of the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology.

Avidan has won numerous awards for educational efforts with medical students, residents and fellows. He was recognized by his peers with the Samuel R. Goldstein Leadership Award in Medical Student Education in 2007, and in recent years, he has played a leading role in establishing the Early Stage Anesthesiology Scholars’ group.

He is president of the Association of University Anesthesiologists and serves as a trustee of the International Anesthesia Research Society. He also is a board member and editor of one of the world’s prominent anesthesiology journals, the British Journal of Anaesthesia.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, ranking among the top 10 medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Jim retired from Washington University in 2023. While at WashU, Jim covered psychiatry and neuroscience, pain and opioid research, orthopedics, diabetes, obesity, nutrition and aging. He formerly worked at KWMU (now St. Louis Public Radio) as a reporter and anchor, and his stories from the Midwest also were broadcast on NPR. Jim hosted the School of Medicine's Show Me the Science podcast, which highlights the outstanding research, education and clinical care underway at the School of Medicine. He has a bachelor's degree in English literature from the University of Missouri-St. Louis.