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Welcome from the Director

I grew up in Cleveland, OH and, while my family all still primarily live there, I moved around… A LOT! I made two stops in the rural town of Culver, IN sandwiching stops in Oxford, England and St. Louis, MO; I went to medical school in Tel Aviv, returned to Cleveland for my internship, before moving to New York City for residency, and then Philadelphia for fellowship and my first faculty position. Along the way, I got married and started a family, and we’ve made Rochester our home.  HirschfeldMain

Why the background? Because geography is often the biggest concern that most candidates consider when making their match lists. I’ve lived in many places, large and small, and have spent a significant amount of time abroad. I’m confident telling you that Rochester has many of the cultural offerings of larger cities, and is much more accessible and affordable. Rochestarians love the outdoors, even in the winter. There are innumerable parks, trails, and lakes to explore. And it is consistently listed as one of the top cities to raise families. 

I joined the University of Rochester’s Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine over four years ago because I recognized the Department’s and the University’s continued focus on being a national and international leader and innovators in medical education. Several of our program’s innovations are highlighted throughout this website. They include the integrated, categorical residency program; the non- clinical residency tracks; multi-disciplinary, team based simulation; class based “Confessions” discussion sessions, and more. 

I have also found unbelievable mentorship in this department, and I found Rochester a place to grow professionally and personally. My predecessor and mentor, Dr. Suzie Karan, serves as the Assistant Designated Institutional Officer of Graduate Medical Education for Hospital Based Training Programs. Dr. Stewart Lustik preceded Suzie as PD and remains in the department’s leadership as the Vice Chair for Clinical Affairs. I am, therefore, both lucky and grateful to have nearly 20 years of residency program leadership experience at my fingertips within my own department. With trusted associate directors in Drs. Kaitlyn Mitchell, Joseph Dooley, and Dr. Wendy Bernstein, the Vice Chair of Education, I feel confident in continuing their legacy. 

What do we look for in an applicant? We are looking for individuals who will bring their unique talents, skills, personalities, and perspectives to form a diverse team. Our educational program is rarely the same two years in a row. hirschfeld teachingThat is because we collaborate with our learners, integrating their creative ideas in order to continually grow and improve. We are looking for learners who are engaged in their education and who want to take ownership of their experience. 

All of our graduates are clinically competent and board eligible anesthesiologists. This is not our program’s aim; it should be the minimum standard of any program you apply to. Our goal is to develop perioperative physicians from diverse backgrounds and with unique interests and skills to become regional, national, and international leaders in medical administration, education, and research as it applies to perioperative medicine. 

We are experiencing a truly unprecedented time in our country. The COVID pandemic has caused so much uncertainty and our department has not been immune. We canceled elective surgeries in mid-March in order to prepare our hospital for a New York City-like surge which we, luckily, did not suffer. We divided our staff-residents, CRNAs, and faculty into cohorts to maintain social distance and ensure a healthy workforce in case of a surge. Throughout the preparation for the surge, we were able to continue educating residents in cardiac, obstetrics, and pediatric anesthesia. I also created senior and junior level Advanced Clinical Anesthesia rotations to ensure our residents continued receiving education in anesthesia for vascular, thoracic, neurosurgical, liver transplants, and other major surgeries. We also committed to continue the clinical anesthesia education of our CBY residents in a safe and controlled manner. Since resumption of elective surgeries and the normal rotation block schedule on May 4, we have been seeing case volumes that exceed our pre-pandemic levels.  

The pandemic has also highlighted the incredible disparities that exist in our communities. The murders of several people of color and the subsequent protests have reminded all of us that much work is still necessary in the quest for equality for all—in the justice system, healthcare, and medical education. As anesthesiologists, when a patient utters the words “I can’t breathe,” they are a call to action. We rush to their side to reassure them as we quickly appraise the situation and determine the appropriate course of action from our experience as airway experts. We must use this same mindset when approaching the topic of racial injustice their open, honest, and frank discussions and a long, deep look at our actual medical practices through quality improvement projects focusing on disparities in health care. Most of all, we must be supportive of our colleagues from underrepresented groups. Listen to their stories and experiences. They are treated differently- by patients, nurses, other physicians.

The University of Rochester’s motto is meliora—ever better. Now is the time for each of us to strive to be better through honesty and bravery. I invite you to learning more about our program’s unique attributes from our website, and I hope to meet you during interview season via Zoom. 

Wishing you continued health and best of luck in your journey in medicine. 

Matthew Hirschfeld, MD, MEd 

Associate Professor and Residency Program Director