Regents approve master of science degree in anesthesiology

School of Medicine program will be first of its kind in Rocky Mountain region

After debating the merits and necessity for a new master of science degree in anesthesiology, the CU Board of Regents approved the School of Medicine (SOM) program 6-1 at its Wednesday meeting. Regent Joe Neguse voted against the program; Chair Michael Carrigan was not required to vote and Regent Steve Bosley was not in attendance.

Anesthesiologist assistants (AA) are qualified to provide anesthetic care within the Anesthesia Care Team (ACT). AAs perform complementary and supplementary anesthetic care and monitoring tasks, allowing the supervising anesthesiologist to more efficiently and effectively use his or her own skills.

Tom Henthorn, professor of anesthesiology, said the SOM program will be consistent with other anesthesiologist assistant training programs in the U.S., all of which award a master’s level degree. It is the first AA degree program to be offered in the Rocky Mountain region that provides education and training to become either an anesthesiologist assistant or a nurse anesthetist.

Scott Shaffer, representing the Colorado Association of Nurse Anesthetists; Sarah Figueroa, SOM; and Jacob Jordan, a Texas Wesleyan University CRNA student doing his residency at University of Colorado Hospital, spoke in opposition of the program during the public comment period of the meeting, citing concerns about the impact on the state’s certified registered nursing anesthetists (CRNA).

“Development of a program like this seems counterproductive and deliberately damaging to our certified registered nursing anesthetists throughout Colorado,” Shaffer said.

Opponents said there is no shortage of anesthesiologists throughout the state and that state restrictions would limit where AA graduates could practice. They suggested the university consider enhancing the CRNA program, for which an infrastructure already is in place.

Henthorn said the College of Nursing was approached years ago about a CRNA program and did not have interest in initiating the program. He said the infrastructure is in place in SOM for the AA degree.

Neguse questioned why some of the university’s public university counterparts have not adopted this kind of program. “While I think there might be a place for this kind of program in the next several years, I’m not convinced it is at this time,” he said. “There is some promise here. I wish we could come together on a proposal that makes sense and everyone is satisfied.”

Regent Tilman “Tillie” Bishop said there has always been professional jealousy among groups who have felt threatened by new programs in health care education. “In the rural areas, we haven’t got time for someone who’s sick to get caught up in this pettiness. You take what’s there and they gave you the very best that they can,” he said. “I think this program is going to give them some backup they’ll be thankful for 10 years from now.”

At its outset, the AA program will accept six in-state and two out-of-state students in 2013-14, with 26 in-state and two out-of-state students at full implementation in the fifth year.