A few days prior to writing this article, my wife and I sat on the pier outside our summer cabin having a warm cup of tea, enjoying the moonless evening sky and the occasional shooting star passing overhead. We noticed that the distant horizon was getting a bit lighter. Soon we saw hazy vertical streams of white light, as if there were massive spotlights shining in the September sky. They began to shimmer and gain color. Aha, the northern lights – an atmospheric phenomenon resulting in a beautiful dancing light show that has been viewed by people on this earth for millennia, also known as the aurora borealis. The Holy Grail of sky watching, and we had a front row seat.

I was moved in this moment, thankful for our earth and our atmosphere that repel a violent barrage of energized particles from the sun, and very pleased to have the earth's magnetic field deflect the particles to the north and south pole while treating us to a spectacular light show. I was so very grateful to be present for this rare but spectacular experience. This feeling of gratitude had me thinking about wording for this article highlighting the wonderful gifts of the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER). Gratitude can be expressed in many ways, as simple as words of thanks or by gifting back. To share some of my gratitude for the gift Mother Nature shared with me, I can gift to you a picture here from my brief time with the northern lights.

Many of us are grateful for FAER in one form or another. Their mission is to develop the next generation of physician-investigators. However, to my own benefit, they will also fund mid-career and older, wiser educators who may have innovative ideas to explore through their Research in Education Grants (REGs). I was fortunate enough to have an idea to explore (I am not claiming wisdom here and working hard to avoid the label of “old”) and received FAER funding for an REG. The important point is that FAER support, regardless of age, seeks to advance our specialty through research. At the Medical College of Wisconsin, we have been exploring novel feedback strategies using holistic assessments from our faculty educators to our resident learners to help them achieve their milestones. I am grateful for FAER's support for our work to improve education in anesthesiology, as are my fellow grantees. Other recent REG awardees working to strengthen our specialty include Dr. Odinakachukwu Ehie of the University of California, San Francisco, who is developing curriculum to confront unconscious biases and grow diversity in training so our trainees are better prepared for caring for a diverse patient population; Dr. Lauren Dunn at the University of Virginia who is developing curriculum to teach self-care as a strategy to improve resident wellness; and Dr. Ahmed Zaky at the University of Alabama at Birmingham who is developing strategies to help trainees better understand and manage cardiac implantable devices.

FAER has supported many other young anesthesiologists through their funding mechanisms over the years. I can only hope that all who have received FAER support mirror my own gratitude for the foundation. Grateful people give back and open themselves up to experiencing the joy and the positive emotions that come through giving. This may come from the inexplicable link between gratitude, positive emotions, and life satisfaction.

Neuroscientists are now revealing the neural connections that are involved in the positive emotions that come with giving. For me, this is a warming growth in knowledge. An emotional cocktail from gratitude and giving makes for a good day. Dr. Christina Karns from the University of Oregon is sharing insights from MRI studies to show that the neural connections between gratitude and altruism are deeply seated in our brains with connections to our cerebral cortex. The grateful brain of prosocial people results in an inner reward from giving that is not found in receiving. This reward from one's generosity becomes larger as we age, suggesting the brain rewards older individuals a bit more when doing good. Indeed, my commitment to gifting to FAER in my younger years brought me the satisfaction that comes with giving back, but it does seem to bring me a more deep-seated joy in my later years. When expressing my gratitutde, it is so very nice to have brilliant scientists explain my positive emotions that come with giving back to FAER.

I often think about the multitude of outstanding clinical anesthesiologists who are not pursuing research yet show up each day to provide exceptional care to our sickest patients. Can they enjoy these positive emotions from gifting to FAER if they are not the ones getting a tangible benefit? This gets back to the very individualized perspective of what we have received in our lives, tangible or intangible, and whether we are grateful for these gifts. Many of us are grateful for our education and give time or money to our schools. For some, it is the gift of faith or a gift to those less fortunate that gives us a sense of emotional well-being. Others may be grateful that FAER has funded a colleague or mentee and helped them and their career flourish. Or perhaps they find gratitude knowing that our specialty has benefited from FAER's support of young physician-investigators whose research has helped us deliver better and safer care, including improved outcomes and patient satisfaction.

I encourage all of us to think about whether we find gratitude for FAER's mission and all that it does for anesthesiology and our patients, and I ask you to ponder the positive emotions that might come from giving to FAER. Winston Churchill was on point, well before the science of gratitude took hold, when he said, “We make a living from what we get, but we make a life from what we give.” Shortly thereafter, the French philosopher Albert Camus stated: “Real generosity toward the future is giving to the present.” With these words in mind, I ask that you support FAER as part of your end-of-year giving. I can't guarantee you will find that giving to FAER brings you the joy that matches witnessing a dancing sky on a dark night, but it sure doesn't hurt to give it a shot!

Thomas J. Ebert, MD, PhD, FAER Development Committee, and Adjunct Professor of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Wisconsin and Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Thomas J. Ebert, MD, PhD, FAER Development Committee, and Adjunct Professor of Anesthesiology, Medical College of Wisconsin and Clement J. Zablocki VA Medical Center, Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

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