There was a time, at the peak of the pandemic, when many of us believed that anesthesiologists finally would get the public recognition and respect we've earned – at a painful price – for our front-line work in airway management and critical care.

Some anesthesiologists like Ajit Rai, MD, a pain medicine specialist in Fresno, California, even boarded flights to New York last spring to help hospitals overrun with critically ill COVID patients. News reports nationwide celebrated these physicians as “health care heroes.”

That was then.

Today, hospitals are struggling to maintain their financial stability in the face of the revenue hit they took in 2020 when elective case volumes plummeted. Total knee and hip replacements were down by 53% and 42%, respectively, compared with 2019 numbers, and even cardiac catheterization cases were 24% fewer. At least 47 hospitals...

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