Valerie Arkoosh, MD, is an Anesthesiologist, past President of the National Physicians Alliance, and a candidate for Congress running in Pennsylvaniaâ€™s 13th Congressional district, located in Northeast Philadelphia and Montgomery County. We recently spoke to Dr. Arkoosh about her roles as a physician and health policy expert.
Where were you born and raised?
I was born and raised in Omaha, Nebraska.
Where did you go to college and what was your major?
Northwestern University and I got a BA in Economics.
Why did you choose Economics and not a more traditional pre-med major?
I knew I wanted to go to medical school but I also came from a family where my dad owned his own business and I wanted to have a broader background.
I knew once I got into medical school I would be doing science for the rest of my life so I thought this was a great opportunity to make sure I knew about some other things as well.
Are there any other physicians in your family?
No, I was the first one.
How did you select the somewhat unglamorous field of Anesthesiology?
I really like physiology and pharmacology. And, I really like to do things with my hands but I didnâ€™t want to go as far as being a surgeon. So, it was just sort of the perfect blend for me of medical decision making, pharmacology, physiology, and being able to do some procedures.
When did you decide to specialize in obstetric anesthesiology? For many years early in your career you also did non-obstetric cases like liver transplants. Were they a favorite case or did you have another favorite non-obstetric case?
In my residency, I spent my entire third year of training doing OB anesthesia, both lab work and clinical research work.
So, that was always my specialty. But, in addition to that I continued to work in the OR as part of the liver transplant team and also doing a variety of other cases.
I think my favorite cases were the complex orthopedic cases. No offense to the liver transplant team but I really, really love orthopedics.
What attracted you to the orthopedics cases?
Well, a lot of times we could use regional anesthesia in interesting ways which I, of course, loved to do.
I liked the patient population and in, some ways, the very concrete nature of orthopedics. The problem is usually very clear, as is the solution.
Surgeons can sometimes be difficult to work with in the operating room, never more so than over the issue of what music is being played. And, an unhappy surgeon is an unhappy OR. How did you deal with that issue?
I always try to put the patient at the center of things. So if there was ever a problem, which there sometimes was, it was usually with the volume of the music.
If I couldnâ€™t hear the monitors or if the music created some other type of safety issue I tried to frame it in that most important way. We had to make sure we put our patients first.
Disclosure â€“ the interviewer is a former colleague and longtime supporter and admirer of Dr. Arkooshâ€™s endeavors, starting with the many liver transplants done jointly in the middle of the night up to her current Congressional campaign.