Bulletin of Dental Education

Dental Anesthesiology Residents on the Front Line in the Operating Room

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Dental Anesthesiology (DA) residents are trained to work in stressful situations. Prior to COVID-19, NYU Langone Dental Medicine DA residents would only spend one day a week in a dental clinic and work the rest of the week in the main operating room at NYU Langone Brooklyn. Residents provide anesthesia services for all specialties, from podiatry to neurology to spinal and orthopedic cases. Second-year residents complete a one-month rotation on a rapid response team in the hospital emergency setting. That is why when COVID-19 hit New York City and medical professional resources were limited, NYU Langone Dental Medicine DA residents were asked to become members of the emergency trauma or rapid response teams (RRT). These teams cared for patients with advanced stage COVID-19. They were called into action when a patient needed airway assistance. They also participated in managing these patients, intubating them, observing and positioning a patient before or after a surgical procedure.

Courtesy of NYU Langone Dental Medicine

One of the PGY-2 DA residents was on off-site rotation in Los Angeles during March when COVID-19 hit New York City hard. At that time, Los Angeles had come under COVID-19 mandated restrictions and the DA resident was pulled off rotation and told to shelter in place. With the rotation suspended, she was hearing from her classmates in New York City that they were being asked to support NYU Langone Hospital efforts in treating COVID-19 stricken patients. She wanted to be part of the team and felt she could make a difference in NY. She called Dental Anesthesiology Program Director, Charles Azzaretti, D.D.S., and told him she needed to be back in New York City. 

All 18 DA residents were re-deployed to support the intensive care units in addition to managing their OR responsibilities. Multiple residents were scheduled during the day and two residents worked overnight (12-hour shifts), including one resident on call for a 24-hour period. 

Taurean Smith, D.M.D., a third-year Chief Resident, says, “As DA residents, we were prepared for this role. In a 12-hour shift, 25 to 50 ICU patients would need to be intubated and managed. At the peak of COVID-19, the hospital was reporting significant deaths each day, some of these were individuals we treated. That alone can take an emotional and physical toll. Every day we were putting ourselves, our families and friends at risk. While as a program, all residents were committed to serve, it was a balancing act each day to manage one’s personal and professional concerns.” Dr. Smith is grateful to have been part of the team and to have had the opportunity to play such a large role in the medical management of COVID-19 patients. He adds, “It brought out the best in us as oral health providers and we were really able to see multidisciplinary care work.”

NYU Langone Dental Medicine is the largest community health center-based postdoctoral residency training program in the world. Programs include Advanced Education in General Dentistry (AEGD), Dental Anesthesiology, Endodontics, General Practice Residency (GPR) and Advanced Education in Pediatric Dentistry. Visit www.nyulangonedental.org to learn more.

Courtesy of Becky Herman, M.A., Director of Recruitment and Community Outreach, NYU Langone Dental Medicine

Published on April 14, 2021

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