If you are the kind of patient who wants to be completely oblivious to the nitty gritty of your operation, anesthesiologist Anna Westrick understands completely.

As a high school student in Bethesda, Maryland, where her father works for the World Bank and her mother has served as executive director of the Hearing Loss Association of America, Westrick got her first taste of medicine during a summer program where she got to “shadow” an obstetrician-gynecologist. “It obviously made a huge impression on me,” she says with a smile. “I fainted in the operating room — hit the deck.”

Westrick kept her career options open when she enrolled in Brown, Class of 1997. She followed a pre-med program of study but majored in international relations and economics. Unlike the majority of pre-meds who go straight to medical school, Westrick taught micro-economics in China for a year, and then came back to the states to work for a healthcare consulting company in Boston. “It was an exciting time in the business of medicine,” Westrick says, referring to the wave of hospital mergers at the time. But, she says, “within three weeks I realized that sitting at a desk was not for me.”

After Stanford Medical School Westrick considered becoming a neurologist and came back east to start her surgical residency. But by then thinking about starting a family (she and her husband, Benedikt, are the parents of two pre-school boys), she thought anesthesia might permit a more balanced work-family life.

She became exposed to the special needs of orthopedics and joint replacement through her anesthesia residency program at Cornell medical center, located next to the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. She took an extra year at the Hospital for Special Surgery to do a fellowship in regional anesthesia for orthopedic surgery. When she came to Princeton she gravitated toward work at the Jim Craigie Center. Much of her workload involves joint replacement.

“I have never regretted the switch” from surgery to anesthesiology, says Westrick. The specialty is action-based, and challenging — sometimes she may have three or four contingency plans in mind. “Our goal is to make everything as boring as possible,” Westrick says.

Minutes after making that observation Westrick takes a phone call and then bolts up from the desk at which she has been sitting. “I’ve got to go — this is unexpected, sorry.” At that she heads off briskly in the direction of the operating room, a reminder that this is not the desk job she once had.

Web Chat with Anna Westrick MD: Westrick will discuss anesthesia and multi-modal pain management for joint replacements on Thursday, August 21, from 7 to 7:30 p.m. The event can be accessed at www.ustream.tv/channel/princetonhealth.

To ask a question during the web chat log in using your Facebook or USTREAM account or you can create a new account. Or questiions can be submitted in advance by E-mailing PrincetonHealth@gmail.com.

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