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Member Spotlight: Dr. Neal Al-Attar on Residency, Training, and Volunteerism


This past January, anesthesiology resident Dr. Neal Al-Attar boarded a plane to the Philippines to participate in a global health mission. Over three days, he and his fellow volunteers performed nearly 30 cases. In this Member Spotlight, Dr. Al-Attar tells us what he learned from the experience.

You recently participated in a surgical mission to the Philippines. Can you tell us a bit about the program and your experience there?

Yes! My co-resident and the current President of the ASA’s Resident Component, Dr. Eric Reilly, and I were lucky enough to participate in a global health mission to Ciriaco Tirol Hospital in Boracay, Philippines. One of our very own Preop nurses, Lou Lim, is the director of the Michigan Medical Mission Consortium and was looking for personnel to provide anesthesia for patients receiving surgery for health problems that needed to be addressed but were in less than fortunate financial situations to do so. In the end, Dr. Reilly and I performed anesthesia for 27 cases over 3 days. The cases included hernia repairs, open cholecystectomies, thyroidectomies with large goiters, and mastectomies in patients ranging from toddlers to geriatrics. The anesthesia machines were older and more simplistic, we would have to hand-bag patients because the machines did not have bellows. Our blood pressure cuffs were manually operated so we had to remember listening for Korotkoff sounds just like they taught us in med school. Resources were limited and we had to take all of our own drugs and volatile anesthetics so it really taught us to not be wasteful and made us reflect on the resources that we have back home. We performed general and neuraxial anesthesia (because we were running short on propofol), and even performed field blocks such as TAP and PECS blocks on the surgical field without use of an ultrasound to aid in post analgesia.

It was an amazing experience and we were both very thankful that our Program Director supported and gave us the opportunity to do this as an elective!

What advice would you give to members – especially young physicians – who are considering participating in charitable missions abroad?

Both Dr. Reilly and I would say that if you have the opportunity to do so, take it. From an anesthesia skills and knowledge perspective, it teaches you how adaptable you can be in the situation that you are in! There are multiple ways to administer anesthesia, and sometimes you have to think outside the box in order to keep your patient safe, comfortable, and in minimal pain. More importantly, it made us aware of the health disparities present, both internationally and locally at our location, and the lengths patients would go to get their surgery to improve their health and quality of life. And anything that opens your eyes and broadens your horizons to different parts of the world and different cultures is necessary for personal and professional growth so that is something you can experience while participating in any of these humanitarian initiatives. I definitely see myself being involved in this type of work throughout my career.

Your YouTube channel, Anesthesia Academy, aims to educate medical students and CA-1’s on the basics. What inspired you to create this video series and what kind of response have you received so far?

I’m quite interested in medical education and its delivery and the delivery and effectiveness of traditional vs non-traditional (or flipped classroom) learning. That’s what inspired Anesthesia Academy. We have many Anesthesia textbooks and PowerPoint lectures that are invaluable to our education and serve as our foundation of knowledge, however some people are more visual learners, some are more auditory learners, and some just need more time in between learning points to understand the topic. I think I fit many of those characteristics! And while there are video resources out there, there weren’t many that were free open-access medical education about anesthesia. So I ended up creating this YouTube channel geared towards medical students and boot-camp CA-1s as an alternative means to learning about the basics of anesthesia. While I wouldn’t call myself the most artistic person with my drawings of airways/the circle system/etc., I have gotten good reviews about the channel and have about 30+ videos! We even provide it as a resource for our medical students who are rotating with us and they have found the beneficial which is great! 

You seem to have a particular interest in the “nuts and bolts” of medical education. Are you considering a career in academic medicine? If not, how do anticipate incorporating these training principles into your clinical practice?

Although it’s difficult to predict where it is that I’ll end up, I would like to be involved in teaching in some aspect in my career! I would like to grow the channel and discuss more advanced topics on there geared for every CA level. Additionally, I would also like to be involved with medical student/residency teaching if the opportunity presents itself. So wherever I end up, I will stay active with medical education both with this channel and with in-person teaching.

Your schedule sounds pretty hectic! How do you blow off steam in your rare off hours? How important is it to prioritize carving out this time for yourself?

Being able to take time for yourself is very important in recharging and maintaining wellness! In my free time, I enjoy playing soccer and have played competitively since I was young. So it’s always nice to have the opportunity to play with friends, be outside, and just put all the “to dos” aside for a couple hours! I also like to travel and try to take advantage of it any chance I get. I will actually be presenting at a conference in Rotterdam, Netherlands in early May so I’m excited about traveling there! And lastly, making time to see friends and family is very important to me as well and always leaves me feeling refreshed and refocused! 

Dr. Neal Al-Attar is the Chief Anesthesiology Resident at Beaumont Health in Royal Oak, MI. Born and raised in the area, he completed both of his undergraduate and medical degrees at the University of Michigan. After residency, Neal will be pursuing an adult cardiothoracic anesthesiology fellowship at the University of Southern California. His career interests include global health and medical education. I’m his free time, Neal enjoys staying active, playing soccer, reading, and traveling.



ASA Community Blog is published as a benefit for ASA members. The views expressed on this blog are those of the individual contributing writers only and do not necessarily represent the opinions of ASA.