Dr. Harendra Arora is the Medical Center's new chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.
Dr. Harendra Arora is the Medical Center's new chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.
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Teaching, quality improvement and research among new anesthesiology chair’s passions

Published on Monday, May 15, 2023

By: Ruth Cummins

Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Communications

Anesthesia is so much more than being put to sleep in the OR, the University of Mississippi Medical Center’s new Department of Anesthesiology chair believes.

“The most critical aspect of our specialty is that we take care of patients at their most vulnerable time,” said Dr. Harendra Arora, who began his new role at the Medical Center in February.

“We are providing patients with care not only intraoperatively, but also preoperatively and postoperatively,” said Arora, a professor of anesthesiology. “Our physicians are involved in preoperative optimization for surgery, post-operative recovery, as well as critical care in the ICU.

“The other aspect of our specialty is that we aren’t just in the OR,” he said. “We are spread out far and wide and touch patients in every setting in the hospital. Anywhere our services are needed, we are there. We have a broad understanding of care across the board.”

Before coming to the Medical Center, Arora served as the Edward A. Norfleet, MD ’70 Distinguished Professor in Anesthesiology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Also vice chair of education in the Department of Anesthesiology at UNC and former residency program director, Arora received his medical degree in 1990 from the Maulana Azad Medical College, University of Delhi, New Delhi, India. He completed a residency in general surgery at Lady Hardinge Medical College at the University of Delhi.

He completed his residency in anesthesiology at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences in Little Rock, where he was a fellow in cardiothoracic anesthesiology. He holds a master’s in business administration from UNC’s Kenan Business School.

Portrait of Dr. Alan Jones

Arora “has a proven track record of being able to work collaboratively with other departments to ensure patient care needs are met in complex, matrixed environments like that at UMMC,” said Dr. Alan Jones, associate vice chancellor for clinical affairs.

Anesthesiologists and CRNA services are performed throughout the spectrum of perioperative patient care, including preoperative clinics, operating rooms, postoperative units, as well as intensive care units and pain medicine clinics, Jones said. “For UMMC, these services are performed at multiple on and off-site locations, requiring careful planning and coordination of multidisciplinary resources to ensure quality patient care and efficiency of patient throughput.”

Arora also specializes in liver transplant and vascular and regional anesthesia.  “Throughout his career, he has assumed key leadership roles in trainee education with a clear commitment to teaching excellence,” Jones said. 

“Teaching is a passion of mine, and I did that at UNC as program director, organizing the education of anesthesiology residents,” Arora said. “We created innovative curricula. We encouraged people to come up with new ideas and thoughts, and we’d trial them.”

When a faculty colleague expressed interest in personal finance, “he said, ‘Let’s create a curriculum for our residents,’” Arora remembered. “We tried it out, and our residents loved it. We then rolled it out to the greater GME (graduate medical education) community at UNC.”

Arora also helped create a team-based structure within the anesthesiology department at UNC that focused on patient safety and quality improvement initiatives. “The teams focused on small pilot projects, several of which ended up becoming much larger departmental projects, and some even rose to the level of becoming organizational projects,” he said.

“One of the very first enhanced recovery pathways on patients undergoing pancreatic surgery was a small pilot project that was highly successful,” Arora said. “We ended up with several enhanced recovery pathways across a number of service lines and eventually these got adopted across the entire UNC health care system.”

Arora’s previous faculty positions and leadership roles include assistant chief in the Department of Anesthesiology at Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System in Little Rock; associate professor of anesthesiology at UAMS; associate professor of anesthesiology at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, Lerner College of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio; and section head of vascular and transplant anesthesia at UNC.

He’s been widely recognized for his research prowess. “Dr. Arora has been involved with several grant-funded research projects as well as quality improvement initiatives that have resulted in a substantial contribution to new and evolving knowledge in the field of anesthesiology,” Jones said.

A career in anesthesiology wasn’t Arora’s first plan. “It happened by chance,” he said.

“I trained as a general surgeon in India, and my initial thought after coming to the United States was to do that,” he said. “But, I somehow landed in anesthesia, and it clicked right away. I didn’t know that side of the practice and soon realized that I loved being on the other side of the ether screen.”

Arora’s wife, cardiac anesthesiologist Dr. Priya Kumar, is associated with UNC’s hospitals. “She’ll be coming here in the fall,” he said.

Parents of a grown son and daughter, the couple love to travel with family. Their goldendoodle Lola keeps them busy. “Anytime I go home, she’s my shadow,” Arora said. “She’s a hoot.”

Arora “will undoubtedly provide strong leadership for the Department of Anesthesiology,” Jones said.

“He takes the helm at an exciting time for our health system, as we take a sharp focus on optimizing our perioperative services and position ourselves for growth and expansion of our operating room spaces.”