Passing the Torch
> Professorship celebrates anesthesiologist's vision and commitment
As the inaugural Cascorbi Professor, Howard Nearman, MD (right) will carry on the legacy of his mentor and former department chair, Helmut Cascorbi, MD, PhD (left). A dedicated educator, Dr. Cascorbi is also the medical director of the Anesthesiology Simulation Center. Credit: David Ahntholz
As past chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Helmut Cascorbi, MD, PhD, knows firsthand that a host of experts is responsible for patient success. He is also aware that when grateful patients express their appreciation for the medical professionals who save their lives, they tend to look to the surgeon or physician who treated them—not the specialist they met just before entering a hazy oblivion.
That is why Dr. Cascorbi, a professor of anesthesiology, chose to recognize the important role of the anesthesiologist through the Cascorbi Professorship in Anesthesiology. His is the School of Medicine's first professorship to honor the discipline.
"Anesthesiology is a relatively young specialty," Dr. Cascorbi says. "This named chair adds prestige, offers independent support and honors my family name. I'm glad I have the chance to give back and strengthen the field of anesthesiology at the School of Medicine and University Hospitals."
An advancing specialty
Even in what he considers to be an emerging field, Dr. Cascorbi says he has seen the practice of anesthesiology evolve greatly since he got his start in 1960. He became chair of the department in 1980.
"Anesthesiology has become much more mature from when I started," he says. "There have been astounding developments in basic and applied research and monitoring technology. Post-graduate education has become very sophisticated. The number of journals and textbooks has exploded, and the number of board-certified anesthesiologists has increased tremendously."
Dr. Cascorbi's longtime colleague Robert Daroff, MD, associate dean of development at the School of Medicine, served as chair of the Department of Neurology at University Hospitals Case Medical Center from 1980 to 1993. He says the Cascorbi Professorship is a significant addition to the school—and to the practice of anesthesiology.
"It's important because endowed professorships allow the school to recruit and retain the best and brightest talent," he says, adding that it is particularly significant that the professorship is named for Dr. Cascorbi. "He was a spectacular chairman and essentially built the department. He has a wonderful sense of humor and is able to dissect complicated problems and arrive at appropriate solutions."
Dr. Cascorbi led the department for more than 20 years and is noted for establishing an incentive system for clinical work—a program he began just one week after taking the post.
An inspired leader
Howard Nearman, MD, professor and current chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, was celebrated as the first recipient of the Cascorbi Professorship in a ceremony on Dec. 17—in honor of the day Dr. Cascorbi first recited the Hippocratic Oath and became a physician.
"It's wonderful and very fitting that the first professorship in this department is named after a very dedicated man," Dr. Nearman says. "He was a significant driving force in how the department got to where it is. I am honored to hold a chair in his name in recognition of his contributions to the education and practice of anesthesiology."
Throughout his long and distinguished career, Dr. Cascorbi has trained more than 200 residents— including Dr. Nearman.
"He became chair of the department in the middle of my residency, so I spent the last part of my residency and my fellowship under Dr. Cascorbi," Dr. Nearman says. "With the credentials I had at the time, I could have gone anywhere in the country, but I chose to stay at Case Western Reserve because of Helmut. I knew him to be a fair man, an honest man, someone who was going to work with you in your career and work for the department. I think that's why he was so successful."
Dr. Daroff says it is exciting that as the honoree, Dr. Nearman is following in the former chair's footsteps.
"A Cascorbi-trained anesthesiologist is someone that you would want to put you under anesthesia," Dr. Daroff says. "Howard Nearman is also a great educator, and the professorship will promulgate continued excellence in that important role."
An enlightening pursuit
Dr. Cascorbi has published nearly 100 papers over the course of his career. He says he especially enjoys finding "new truths" in the lab; developing new teaching and evaluation methods; and leading the Council of Clinical Chairmen, which he helped to create to give department leaders a voice in the development and implementation of school policy. However, it is the teaching of the next generation that he says is his favorite aspect of his profession, and that is why he wants the professorship to focus on education.
"Without research and education, an academic department is crippled and will not survive," he says.
For his part, Dr. Nearman has big ideas for how the new funds can benefit the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine and its students. One plan, he says, is to advance the medical simulation program to help residents become more active in their training.
"Dr. Cascorbi's contribution is certainly going to help the educational pursuits of our department," he says. "I think it's appropriate that the funding be used toward the interests that Helmut championed most'the teaching of residents and fellows."