At the close of a landmark year for critical care physicians this past March, Deborah J. Culley had arrived from Boston to embark on a new role as chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Critical Care at the Perelman School of Medicine. The internationally renowned neuroanesthesiologist has worn many hats over the past 25 years, most notably as an associate professor at Harvard Medical School, executive vice chair for the Department of Anesthesiology Perioperative and Pain Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and director and former president of the American Board of Anesthesiology. At Penn, Culley takes the helm in a role held by Lee A. Fleisher from 2004 to 2020.
Culley has played a pivotal role in establishing links between anesthesia and postoperative cognitive dysfunction in older patients. “In my second year of residency, I treated a middle-aged patient who told me that after the last time he had been anesthetized, he didn’t have the same cognitive function for a period of months,” she explains. “This encounter sparked an interest in the connection between anesthesia and post-operative delirium, cognitive dysfunction, and other long-term effects. One of my proudest professional moments was the publication of my first manuscript on the effects of anesthetics on the aged brain.”
Culley will also oversee the transition of her department to The Pavilion this fall, which will greatly improve the patient experience. “We will be able to keep patients in the same hospital room from intake to discharge. In most hospitals, you have a pre-op and a post-op center. Patients meet one nurse in pre-op and a different one in post-op. By removing that typical pre- and post-op divide, we expect higher levels of patient satisfaction, stronger connections between patients and staff, and more family involvement,” she says.
This story is by Ashley Rabinovitch. Read more at Penn Medicine News.