Blog Viewer

Member Spotlight: Dr. Elisha Peterson Aims to "Demystify" the Specialty for Future Anesthesiologists


Dr. Elisha Peterson is a Harvard-trained, triple-boarded anesthesiologist who has since added “podcast host” and “TEDx speaker” to her already impressive resume. In this Member Spotlight, she explains how her many professional activities and interests contribute to a singular goal: pulling back the “blue drapes” so that future anesthesiologists of all backgrounds can have a clearer view of the specialty and its impact on patients’ lives.

First, let us say that you’ve got a lot going on! If we met you at a professional event, what would be the top three things you’d like us to learn about you? 

1) I have a podcast! It’s called “Sevo Sistas,” and it's geared toward women and people of color curious about, or interested in, the field of anesthesia. The 15-minute episodes come out weekly and we demystify and diversify the field of anesthesia all within the duration of an anesthesia break! The episodes cover professional topics that aren’t openly addressed in academics, such as how to interview, the mindset needed to be a successful resident, true stories from practicing anesthesiologists who are women or people of color who tell us what really happens on the other side of the blue drape. This podcast was born to address the questions and issues Black and Latino medical students presented to me at the ASA and through our Drapes Down program, a pipeline partnership with Howard Medical school.

2) My TEDx talk "How Chronic Pain is like Falling in Love" came out. As a pediatric chronic pain physician, when I would often discuss with families a treatment plan-all were completely new to the concept of the biopsychosocial model of pain treatment. They were never told how the mind and body are involved in the perception of pain. This TEDx talk is to introduce this concept and share how it’s not just for people in pain- we all can benefit from using this model for fortify our minds and bodies to protect us from developing chronic pain and improve our quality of life.

3) I love discussing how we can leverage our skills in and out of the operating room. We are constant problem solvers, negotiators, and communicators, and these skills greatly serve outside the operating room as well. So many of us take calculated risks in the operating room but refuse to take any risks in our lives and wonder why we do not feel satisfied or fulfilled. If there is no risk, there is no reward. We are sitting on a new idea and not executing for fear of "what others will think" or "what if it does not work out” — but what if it will? I was terrified of starting a podcast but, over time, as I was asked the same questions over and over by students, it was clear that this need screamed louder than my fear.

As you mentioned, the “Sevo Sistas” podcast aims to “demystify and diversify the field of anesthesiology.” We hear a lot about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) and recruiting underrepresented groups to the specialty. Why was it important for you to pair the concept of “demystification” with “diversity”?

Anesthesiology suffers from obscurity, and it is hurting us principally in two ways: 1) Obscurity hurts the profession. More states are allowing for "optional" physician-led anesthesia care instead of mandating this. 2) Obscurity hurts recruitment. Most accidentally discover anesthesiology or know of a family or friend who is an anesthesiologist. This results in very few Blacks and Latinos entering anesthesiology. We care about diversifying our field because currently, healthy Black children are three times more likely to die after surgery than their white counterparts. Research suggests racially concordant care is a positive step in addressing these racial disparities.

Because no one knows what we do, they cannot value what we do. By demystifying the field of anesthesia, it takes care of the threats posed by obscurity and strengthens the profession.


You’re active in the ASA, the American Society of Pediatric Anesthesia (SPA), and the Society of Pediatric Pain Medicine (SPPM). Tell us a bit about your work with them and how these various roles reflect your personal mission within the specialty.

The ASA is huge and much of the programming is catered to general anesthesiology and appropriately so. Drs. Tina Tran, Nick Yeldo, and I gave a talk to medical students every year for the past four years called “The ABCs of Anesthesia” (this talk is now recorded and we no longer give it live). Through these talks the ASA has allowed me to connect with medical students across the country interested in anesthesia which sparked the idea for the podcast.

Because I do serve kids and kids with chronic pain it was necessary that I engaged with SPA and SPPM to receive content that is relevant to the population I served and make connections. SPA and SPPM are smaller conferences where I can easily receive education and mentorship directly related to the unique challenges in pediatric anesthesiology and pain medicine.

I have received so much support from these organizations that I now seek to contribute to them through providing education in the form of lectures, facilitating PBLDs, moderating, and serving on committees such as DEI for SPA and the Board of Directors for SPPM. Anesthesiology is a huge field and I have found my unique contribution is in providing mentorship to underrepresented minorities and speaking out to diversity and demystify the field.


In 2022, you were a recipient of SPA’s Mission Driven Mentoring Program, which aims to support the growth and advancement of individuals in pediatric anesthesiology who participate in DEI efforts. What was your winning proposal and how did the project go?

Drs. Giuliana Geng-Ramos, Tracy Burns, and I created a pipeline program partnership with Howard medical students to support those in their third year who are interested in applying to anesthesiology. The program was called Drapes Down. We all practiced at Childrens National, which was right down the street from Howard Medical School. Howard does not have a residency program for anesthesiology, so it is difficult for students to have consistent exposure and form mentorship with the private practice anesthesiologists there. We established mentorship with our faculty where they could independently schedule shadowing and informal mentoring, while providing quarterly events such as coaching, mindset sessions, mock residency interviews. The goal was to increase the number of matched applicants at Howard into anesthesiology. This match landed at a time when anesthesiology residency programs saw huge increases in applicants, and few were applying to ER. Overall, we call the program a success because out of it came the podcast and greater faculty involvement which provides a steady channel for Howard medical students who want to get exposure to connect with Children's.


Much of your work focuses on training and development for medical students and residents. What advice do you typically give them about pursuing careers in anesthesiology?

Be bold! I meet too many timid medical students who whisper they are interested but don't believe they will be successful and then they are hurt when they don’t get in. For students interested in or curious about anesthesia I say, “Probe your interest! What is it about anesthesiology that keeps you coming back? Were you on a specialty rotation like peds or OB when you got the heart flutter? Go down the rabbit hold to explore this. See the faculty who you are with. What are they working on that you can contribute? How can you gain more exposure?” As you probe your curiosity and gain exposure, you become more confident in your decision to pursue anesthesia.

Is there anything you’d like to touch on that we haven’t yet discussed?

I’m on Twitter @EpetersonMD and my website is if you would like to connect further! Thank you for the opportunity to contribute to the ASA Member Spotlight!

Elisha Peterson, MD, Med, FAAP, FASA, is a triple-boarded anesthesiologist and Harvard-trained pain medicine physician. She is an Associate Professor in Anesthesiology at George Washington. She also is the host of the “Sevo Sistas” podcast and a TEDx speaker who enjoys discussing issues relevant to diversifying anesthesiology and demystifying anesthesiology and pain medicine.


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.