American Society of Anesthesiologists

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American Society of Anesthesiologists

The American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA) is an educational, research and scientific association of physicians organized to raise the standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology and to improve patient care.

In 2012, the organization claimed a membership of 48,000 national and international members and has more than 100 full-time employees.

History of ASA[edit]

Anesthesiology’s roots are closely tied to an event in the mid-19th century. On March 30, 1842, Crawford Long, M.D. administered the first ether anesthetic for surgery and operated to remove a tumor from a patient’s neck. After the surgery, the patient revealed that he felt nothing and was not aware the surgery was over until he awoke. This was the start of a specialty critical to modern medicine, anesthesiology.

In 1905, nine physicians (from Long Island, N.Y.) organized the first professional anesthesia society. In 1911, the Society expanded to 23 members and became the New York Society of Anesthetists. Over the next 25 years, involvement in anesthesia-related issues grew and attracted other interested physicians nationwide. Thought leaders, such as Virginia Apgar who created the Apgar score used to assess newborn children, migrated into this medical specialty. In 1936, the Society changed its name to the American Society of Anesthetists. In 1945, the organization moved to become the American Society of Anesthesiologists (ASA). In 1960, the ASA established an Executive Office in Park Ridge, Illinois to meet growing membership and patient-care demands.

Each year, on March 30, Doctors Day celebrates Long’s achievement, as well as the continued efforts of all physicians to alleviate human suffering and improve patient safety. The contribution of anesthesiology’s early pioneers, such as Long and Apgar, has been recognized worldwide to include commemorative postage stamps in their names.

Membership in ASA[edit]

Membership is open to holders of Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.) degrees who are licensed practitioners and have successfully completed a training program in anesthesiology approved by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) or American Osteopathic Association (AOA).

Members must maintain the high standards required by the Society throughout their careers. Within the membership, the Society has a special section for residents in training in anesthesiology, as well as medical students. Resident members must be physicians in a full-time anesthesiology residency program accredited by ACGME or AOA.

Following completion of their residency, an anesthesiologist is eligible for board certification through the American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA). Board certification consists of a written and then an oral exam. Board-certified anesthesiologists must maintain their certification with continuing medical education specifically approved by the ABA for Maintenance of Certification in Anesthesiology (MOCA).

The ASA also maintains an active resident component as well as medical student component.


ASA is governed by its House of Delegates. The House of Delegates is composed of ASA delegates and directors (designated by geographic distribution), ASA officers, all past presidents, the Editor-in-Chief of the journal, the chairs of all sections, the chair of the ASA delegation to the American Medical Association House of Delegates and each member of the Resident Component Governing Council not to exceed five members and a non-voting member of the Medical Student component. The House of Delegates meets each year during the Society's Annual Meeting.

During the interim between the meetings of the House of Delegates, the ASA Board of Directors exercises authority to manage the business and financial affairs of the Society, and superintends and directs the publication and distribution of all official documents, journals and reports consistent with policies of the House of Delegates. The Board of Directors meet three times each year. The Society also has many special committees. In addition, 55 component societies work to implement and complement the Society's goals at the community level.

The current President is John M. Zerwas, M.D., the President-Elect is Jane C.K. Fitch, M.D. The current President of the Resident Component is Nicole A. Weiss, M.D., the President-Elect is Mark Bickett, M.D. The current President of the Medical Student Component is Daniel A. Hansen, the President-Elect is Chad R. Greene.

ASA designated the ASA's Division of Scientific Affairs as the major continuing educational component of the Society, and the Committee on Professional Education Oversight has overall responsibility for the programs. To achieve its goal of raising standards of the medical practice of anesthesiology, ASA sponsors the world's largest annual educational program for anesthesiologists, to provide anesthesiologists with information on the newest developments in anesthesiology and other related medical fields. ASA also offers formal refresher courses of continuing education for the practicing anesthesiologist at the Annual Meeting and in regional courses throughout the year.

Educational Products Include:
  • Self-Education and Evaluation Program (SEE) - A self-assessment which practitioners can complete at their own convenience. SEE enables anesthesiologists to gain an objective measure of their professional knowledge and provides guidance for continuing education
  • Anesthesiology Continuing Education Program (ACE) – facilitates lifelong learning by allowing practitioners to assess their status of knowledge, identify any areas of improvement and prepare for the written anesthesiology recertification examination
  • Patient Safety CME - provides case based instruction on Patient Safety
  • ASA Refresher Courses in Anesthesiology
  • Anesthesiology’s Journal-Based Programs
  • Annual Meetings
  • Simulation Education website
  • Ambulatory Surgical Centers: A Manual for Anesthesiologists


Meetings are held annually and are based on scientific progress in the anesthesiology fields.


The Society publishes multiple academic resources within the following categories:

  • Practice Management
  • Practice Parameters
  • Continuing Education
  • Patient Education
  • Patient Safety/Risk Management and Quality Improvement
  • General Publications
    • ASA Bylaws
    • ASA Standards, Guidelines and Statements
    • The Medical Specialty of Anesthesiology
    • Challenge, Diversity, Flexibility, Rewards
  • Periodicals
  • Physician Booklets

Anesthesia Subspecialties[edit]

While all anesthesiologists complete a minimum of eight years of medical training after college, some anesthesiologists have additional training (called a fellowship) in a specific area of anesthesiology. The ABA offers specific certifications in some of these areas. Anesthesiologists are not required to subspecialize, but many do focus on one area of care to further hone their expertise. These specialty areas include, but are not limited to:

  • Pediatric Anesthesia
  • Cardiac Anesthesia
  • Pain Medicine
  • Obstetric Anesthesia
  • Ambulatory Anesthesia
  • Neurosurgical Anesthesia
  • Critical Care Medicine
  • Hospice and Palliative Medicine
  • Research

See also[edit]

External links[edit]