March 31, 2006

Higgins named to lead Anesthesiology

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Michael Higgins, M.D.

Higgins named to lead Anesthesiology

Michael Higgins, M.D., M.P.H., has been appointed chair of the Department of Anesthesiology at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

A 1989 graduate of Vanderbilt's School of Medicine, Higgins has been interim chair of the Department since June 2004.

The appointment was announced yesterday by Steven Gabbe, M.D., dean of the School of Medicine. A nationwide search launched in January 2005 produced four exceptional candidates, Gabbe said.

“In terms of leadership and managerial skills and support for education and research, the committee found Mike to be the ideal choice, and I couldn't agree more,” Gabbe said. “I'm delighted to welcome Mike as the new chairman of the Department. He has performed exceptionally as the interim chair, having already advanced faculty development, productivity and financial performance, all while continuing to lead the development of important new technology for the management of surgical patients.”

“I'm happy that Mike has accepted this role, one that's vital both for the School of Medicine and for the Vanderbilt clinical enterprise,” said Harry Jacobson, M.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

“With his achievements as interim chair and his track record in clinical and operational improvement and the development of new technology, we know to look forward to continued major contributions from Mike and from the Department of Anesthesiology.”

“I am honored to have the opportunity to lead a department with such a rich history and tradition,” Higgins said, citing the Department's record of achievement in research, education and patient care.

In 1946, Vanderbilt established one of the country's first independent departments of anesthesiology. Its first chair, Benjamin Howard Robbins, M.D., was a noted researcher in the pharmacology of early anesthetics. Since that time, the Department has expanded to 45 residents and more than 80 faculty and developed innovative programs in subspecialty operative anesthesia, critical care medicine, and pain management. The Department has risen to ninth in the U.S. in NIH research funding among anesthesiology departments through successful research programs in ion channels, genomics, pain mechanisms, medical informatics and health care safety.

Looking to the future, Higgins said the Department seeks to develop the next generation of leaders in the field of anesthesiology and to explore new technologies and therapies to assist in the care of complex surgical patients and improve the perioperative care system in the U.S.

“I have benefited greatly from the contributions that others have made to Vanderbilt,” Higgins said, recalling his arrival here as a medical student in 1985. “I see serving as chair as my opportunity to give something back by fostering change that benefits the Department and Medical Center.”

Higgins earned a bachelor's degree in natural science from Lewis and Clark College in 1984. He completed resident training in anesthesiology in 1992 at Johns Hopkins Hospital, followed by a fellowship in vascular and thoracic anesthesia at Hopkins.

He returned to Vanderbilt as an assistant professor in 1994, then completed his master's in public health here in 1998. Since 2002, he has held a joint appointment in Anesthesiology, Biomedical Informatics and Surgery. He has held several administrative appointments, including director of Perioperative Informatics since 2000 and Executive Medical Director of Perioperative Services since 2002.

Higgins has led development of information technology to enhance improvement in patient safety, quality of patient care and OR efficiency. Most recently these efforts led to the creation of Vigilance, a system that keeps anesthesiologists and intensivists abreast of what is happening with every patient under their management.

The search committee was led by Dan Beauchamp, M.D., J.C. Foshee Distinguished Professor and chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences.