Whether intentional or unintentional, overdoses from medications such as opioids or from alcohol affect people from all walks of life. Physician anesthesiologists play a critical role in combatting this alarming issue, including managing pain after surgery or chronic pain in responsible ways. During ASA’s sixth annual Physician Anesthesiologists Week, a broad range of member activities and communications strategies raised awareness of overdose prevention and positioned the specialty at the forefront of the conversation.
Since the inception of Physician Anesthesiologists Week in 2015, ASA members have come together across the country in January to advocate for the specialty and raise awareness of the importance of patient-centered, physician-led anesthesia care through proactive media relations, meetings with policymakers, efforts to secure state proclamations and getting the word out on social media.
Activities in 2020 included the theme “More than Meets the Eye” to alert the public and other key stakeholders to the breadth and depth of the specialty and the work physician anesthesiologists do every day for their patients. The theme was incorporated in campaign materials and featured in a new infographic highlighting physician anesthesiologists across the subspecialties helping millions of patients each year.
Media relations and social media efforts on overdose prevention educated audiences about the signs of an overdose, who is at risk and what actions the public can take to save a life. To underscore the importance of overdose reversal medications and reach a broader audience, the ASA Public Relations Department collaborated with U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, M.D., M.P.H., to highlight his office’s 2018 advisory urging everyone to carry naloxone. A news release on the topic featuring Dr. Adams and ASA President Mary Dale Peterson, M.D., MSHCA, FACHE, FASA, resulted in 92 placements, reaching a potential audience of more than 47 million. Highlights included coverage by HealthDay, U.S. News & World Report and broadcast segments on 75 network affiliate television stations across the country, including WRC-TV (Washington, D.C.). Dr. Peterson was also featured in a segment on KRIS-TV (NBC) in Corpus Christi, and ASA Assistant Secretary Kraig de Lanzac, M.D., FASA, participated a live, in-studio interview with WGMB-TV (FOX) in Baton Rouge.
A mat release (a 500-700 word feature article that appears in newspapers or online to complement staff-written material) on the topic ran in 1,118 online outlets, reaching a potential audience of nearly 120 million, with hits in the Houston Chronicle, San Francisco Chronicle and Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Members also promoted the specialty with in-person meetings, outreach to media and by raising their voices on social channels. During the week, 1,017 tweets with the hashtag #PhysAnesWk20 reached an audience of 2.5 million people. Member activity also resulted in 12 state proclamations in Arkansas, Florida, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Jersey, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas and Virginia. Many ASA members visited with policymakers at their state capitols, with Jay Epstein, M.D., FASA, serving as Doctor of the Day for the Florida Legislature. During his day of service, Dr. Epstein assessed and treated patients for common ailments and observed chamber sessions in between seeing patients. Many of these people wanted to know why an anesthesiologist would be the Doctor for the Day, thinking they just put people to “sleep.” Dr. Epstein was able to provide them with education on all of the things physician anesthesiologists do for patients, from pain management to safety in surgery.
Thanks to each and every ASA member who went out to advocate for and promote the specialty. Thank you for the awareness you bring to the specialty every day by ensuring the best possible patient care.