Cleveland Program History

The realization that the field of anesthesiology was experiencing meaningful staffing shortages culminated in the early 1960’s. To meet the growing demands, in response to a manpower shortage and with concerns over the increasing complexity of anesthesia and surgery, three anesthesiologists (Drs. Gravenstein, Steinhaus and Volpitto) proposed the concept of an "anesthesia technologist" who would be a member of the anesthesia team and be considered an "applied physiologist", the precursor to what is now the anesthesiologist assistant. They designed an educational program whereby matriculates would build on an undergraduate premedical education then obtain a masters degree in anesthesiology. This person would perform the same job as the nurse anesthetist but would be readily able to go on to medical school if appropriate. This new professional, the anesthesiologist assistant, or CAA, thus had the potential to alleviate the shortage that was occurring in anesthesia.

When the Case Western Reserve and Emory Universities were approached with this concept, legitimate questions about the curricular content were raised. Would the student still be able to receive a well-rounded general education? How much time and what specific topics were to be covered in clinical education? How much laboratory time was to be available for clinical rotations? Exhaustive scrutiny of what was needed, what was fair to the student and what would meet a university’s expectations led us to propose programs that were eventually accepted. The result of this careful planning was a master’s degree program at Emory and a baccalaureate program at CWRU. The Emory program made premedical requirements a prerequisite for admission, and the CWRU program incorporated these requirements in the bachelor degree program. It was envisioned that this new anesthesia professional would have a bachelor's degree in science with premedical training and be awarded a master's degree that allowed for both vertical mobility toward a medical degree and lateral mobility into other areas requiring training in biomedical equipment and physiologic measurement. Both programs currently offer a master’s degree. Of course, both programs incorporated didactic and practical material specific to anesthesia. The Emory and CWRU programs graduated their first students in 1971 and 1973, respectively.