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Choosing a Career in Anesthesia

By Vibhuti Chopra, MD, Assistant Facility Medical Director at NewYork-Presbyterian Queens (NYPQ) in Flushing, New York

Earlier this year, Dr. Vibhuti Chopra shared her inspiring story for Women Physicians Day. Now, she’s sharing more about facing COVID-19 with her team and why she chose a career in anesthesia. 

Dr. Chopra’s Career in Anesthesia

I was inspired by my family and community to become an anesthesiologist. In terms of inspiration for my career, it starts from the very beginning. I was born into a family of very successful women leaders. Women who said, “I will put both my family and my career first.” At an early age, I saw my mother work very hard and climb as high as she could while still being very involved and connected.

Today, my support system is even stronger as it now includes my husband and his family. I also have many professional mentors including Dr. Ahmed Soliman, Facility Medical Director for TeamHealth Anesthesia at NewYork-Presbyterian. I’ve had several career mentors at every step of the way, but I would be remiss not to mention Dr. Soliman. The amount of mentorship he has provided me in such a short time is so phenomenal. I learn from him every day about how to lead and communicate effectively.

Doing Her Part to Inspire Others

I have experienced a tremendous amount of professional growth in my career in anesthesia at TeamHealth, and enjoy my current role as Assistant Facility Medical Director. I’m so thankful for the women that paved the way for me. Now, I do my best to encourage and assist other women on their career journey.

I’m so thankful for the women that paved the way for me, and now I do my best to encourage and assist other women on their career journey.” – Dr. Vibhuti Chopra

While it is challenging to be a physician-leader while juggling all the things that constitute our lives as women, it is incredibly rewarding. It takes navigation, a good support system, understanding and growth. But at the end of the day, it’s incredibly rewarding to be a part of this group of physician leaders – especially women physician-leaders. I want to do my part to provide hope for the next generation, particularly after the hardships clinicians have collectively faced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Anesthesia in the Continued COVID-19 Crisis

In the spring of 2020, NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital Queens (NYPQ) was one of the first facilities in New York to face the COVID-19 surge. The Anesthesia department quickly became a critical and invaluable resource. With the closing of the operating rooms, our team assembled into “airway teams,” who became responsible for the intubations throughout the hospital. This put incredible physical and mental stress on our clinicians as they intubated 20-30 patients per shift under excruciating circumstances. Our CRNAs also deployed to the ICUs to help with vasopressor infusions and general critical care management.

By mid-2020, as the initial surge subsided, our operating rooms re-opened and our team returned to what we love – providing anesthetic care to our diverse patient population. Dr. Soliman and I remained at the forefront of hospital leadership discussions as we entered our second surge in late 2020. While we managed to keep several operating rooms open and did not need to recreate our airway teams, our CRNAs again rose to the occasion and deployed to the PACU to allow recovery room nurses to become resources throughout the hospital. The brief second surge again reminded me of how strong and resilient our team truly is.

Our team was incredibly lucky to be led by Dr. Soliman, who remained a constant advocate for adequate PPE and an empathetic beacon of support during trying times.” – Dr. Vibhuti Chopra

New York City continues to treat COVID-19 patients, and today, our hospital is seeing a bump in admissions due to unvaccinated patients. While our inpatient numbers remain manageable, our team continues to provide care for urgent and emergent COVID-19 patients undergoing surgery. As I look at the faces of our team, I realize what they went through during the initial surge will forever remain etched in their minds – a once-in-a-lifetime experience that has changed the way we practice and maintain our daily lives.