“Medical Specialty Spotlight: What is an Anesthesiologist?” was one of the most-watched UMHS livestreams ever on January 17, 2023. UMHS 2014 graduates Dr. Aashish Jay Kumar and Dr. Andrew Albert Letayf, both anesthesiologists and good friends, participated in the lively, informative virtual event for current and prospective UMHS med students interested in a career in anesthesiology.
The two UMHS grads spoke about how they secured residency in anesthesiology—a competitive specialty—the pros and cons of anesthesiology, a "day in the life" of their jobs, as well as compensation and the unique work-life balance they enjoy in this field. Dr. Aashish Jay Kumar is the Chief Medical Officer and Interventional Spine & Pain Specialist at the Spine & Pain Specialists of the Carolinas in Charlotte, NC. Dr. Andrew Letayf is the Vice Chief Anesthesiologist, Chief of Pediatric Anesthesiology, Director of Obstetrical Services, and Envision Physician Services at Bethesda East & West Hospitals in Boynton Beach, FL.
Dr. Kumar and Dr. Letayf were the first anesthesiology matches for UMHS and were co-residents. The livestream was an informative discussion featuring this dynamic duo discussing topics such as their residency experiences, the benefits of anesthesiology as a career, pediatric anesthesiology, the evolution of interventional pain treatment, and more. Prospective and current medical students learned what it takes to become an anesthesiologist and had their questions answered live. Both doctors discussed why they chose UMHS, how their residencies provided a critical understanding of delivering life-saving care, how the opioid crisis has affected the practice of medicine, plus exciting new treatment options that improve patient outcomes. Dr. Kumar's goal is to treat patients with chronic pain with alternatives to opioid painkillers. He discussed new treatments like bilateral nerve implants and how this helped a patient with end-stage renal disease on dialysis with neuropathy who could not take traditional painkillers. He said she now has 95% pain relief without medication.
UMHS grads & good friends Dr. Andrew Letayf & Dr. Aashish Jay Kumar during their residency days. Photo courtesy of Dr. Letayf & Dr. Kumar.
How UMHS helped them become anesthesiologists
Below is an excerpt from an interview UMHS did with Dr. Kumar and Dr. Letayf prior to the livestream.
UMHS Endeavour: Dr. Letayf, what made you decide to attend UMHS for med school?
Dr. Andrew Albert Letayf: I had a friend of mine tell me about Caribbean medical schools, and they told me about Warren Ross and to look into UMHS [his medical school]. It was never on my wavelength because I lived abroad my whole life. At the time, the Caribbean medical school system wasn't very known. And then I came here and I called my dad who's an anesthesiologist. I told him, "Dad, I don't want to wait another year and reapply. This school seems excellent, and under the direction of President Ross, this probably is a good idea." He said, "Why don't you give it a shot?" And I went to the interview at UMHS and it was probably the greatest decision I made. They gave me a chance to be what I wanted to be when I grew up. I always wanted to be a doctor. UMHS was the only medical school that I felt was good enough for me to apply to. If I didn't get into UMHS, I was actually going to wait another year and reapply to the American medical schools. But then when I went and I did the tour there and I saw the facilities and I saw how beautiful the island was, and I met with President Ross, I had a feeling that this was the right place.
Dr. Kumar, what made you choose UMHS?
Dr. Aashish Jay Kumar: I saw some flyers, like a tear-off sheet thing next to the biology classroom [at my undergraduate college], I remember. I filled one of those out. But actually, the biggest reason is I went to go tour [another school] and UMHS, too. Long story short, very similar to Dr. Latif, the campus is just immaculate, especially back when we were there in 2010.
Dr. Kumar and Dr. Letayf both graduated in 2014 and matched in the same program, same class, same hospital.
Good thing you guys liked each other, right?
Dr. Kumar: Yeah. And we then subsequently spent the next five years together literally. And now he’s one of my best friends. But we started in 2014, we finished in 2018. We then did our pediatric anesthesia fellowship together from 2018 to 2019 at Children's Hospital in Michigan.
Dr. Letayf, what kinds of patients did you see in your residency program? What kind of hospital was it? Was it more of an urban setting? Was it more rural?
Dr. Letayf: We trained at Harper Hospital and at Sinai Grace, and at Detroit Receiving Hospital (DRH). And one thing that I have to say is I think we probably went to one of the best residency programs that prepared you for really being a doctor, and knowing what to do in any situation. People should train at inner-city hospitals like the hospitals we were trained at. Because you can see traumas in both adult and pediatric, huge cases, cardiac. Usually, an inner-city hospital has your less healthy patients to be fair. And when you're training on a person that is at much higher risk than somebody that can run five miles a day, you're going to learn a lot more and be a lot more prepared for the real world when you're out on your own. And that's what DMC (Detroit Medical Center) provided for me, both in a fellowship setting and in a residency setting, anesthesia residency setting. And each one of those hospitals that we worked at, each of them had their own special niche. Like your gunshot wounds and the crazy stuff would happen at Sinai Grace. And then your big vascular cases and heart surgeries and kidney transplants, they would happen at Harper Hospital. And DRH or Detroit Receiving was a little bit of both. So, we got that. And what's nice about the fellowship that I did in Detroit is all of that is in one hospital. So, when I came out, I was so nervous, I'm like, “My God, am I ready?” And to be fair, there's a lot of people, a lot of the guys that are with me, who are similar in age to me that went to very big schools. Their clinical skills are—I wouldn't want to say lacking—but they focused more on the educational aspect and being good at research. I think that's great if that's the direction you want to head. But if you want more ability in having confidence with your hands and skills and seeing everything, you should go to a residency like the DMC or any residency that's offered inner city.
Dr. Kumar, is there anything you want to add to that notion?
Dr. Kumar: Why it matters is because, at the end of the day, where you completed residency or where you went to school is something that's written on a piece of paper. What actually matters in real life with getting jobs is how you present yourself, how you portray yourself as being confident or just honestly being a confident, very efficient physician. One of the biggest reasons Andrew got his first job out of training and one of the reasons I got my first job out of training was because that was clearly evident when we went through the interviewing process for our respective fields. I went and took my first job under Duke Health and he, within a matter of months, became the chief of his department. So, that's why it matters. There’s meaning for everything that we're talking about when you really look at it down the road in a few years.
To learn more about anesthesiology as a career, watch the livestream Medical Specialty Spotlight: What is an Anesthesiologist? on the UMHS YouTube channel.
Scott is Director of Digital Content & Alumni Communications Liaison at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.