March 30 is National Doctor’s Day, and to celebrate, we decided to interview Dr. Armen Chalian, one of the many incredible physicians we have here at Allied Anesthesia, about what made him want to become a doctor (in particular, an anesthesiologist).
Dr. Chalian joined Allied in 1993; since then, he has handled more than 20,000 cases with us. Dr. Chalian currently specializes in anesthesiology for pediatric, obstetric, neurology and orthopedic patients, as well as chronic pain management. Previously, he specialized in anesthesia for pediatric and adult open-heart surgery.
Here’s what he had to say.
Did you always know you wanted to be a doctor?
In high school, I really enjoyed the humanities—English and history. I wasn’t particularly interested in the sciences. I went to college at UCLA, and my dad told me to take a biology class just to try it. There were 600 students in the class, and I ended up being in the top 3. And I just kept going!
A little backstory here: My grandparents survived the Armenian genocide and escaped to the Middle East. Then my father similarly escaped war-torn Beirut to come here to the States. It was important for my dad and his siblings that their children become doctors, in part because doctors provide a critical service to others. And we did. Every single one of my cousins is a doctor or dentist.
What made you decide to get into anesthesiology?
That was an easy decision. Anesthesiology is the best and most exciting field in medicine—by far.
As an anesthesiologist, you have to be an expert in all fields of medicine—not just anesthesia—because administering anesthesia affects all organ systems. Anesthesiologists are the only doctors who need to have this broad base of knowledge and expertise.
It’s also the only field of medicine where, as a doctor, you have a cart full of medications and you can grab and administer them in real-time, which often ends up saving patients’ lives. I always tell people that if you had to pick one doctor to have around if you’re going to be very ill, it’s an anesthesiologist. We’re trained to spring into action, and our work depends on expertise across the medical spectrum.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about anesthesiology?
I think the biggest misconception is that anyone can administer anesthetic. And it’s not just a misconception on the part of patients. There are even doctors who think that!
But in reality, anesthesiology is not just pushing medicine in an IV and watching someone fall asleep. Every patient has unique things about them—age, general health, specific medical conditions, medications—and all of these characteristics factor into how anesthetic will affect them.
Another misconception is that anesthesiologists just administer anesthesia at the beginning of a procedure and then go home. You’re there the whole time, monitoring the patient, ensuring that they’re responding well to both the anesthesia and the procedure itself, and will wake up at the end of the procedure feeling better.
It’s an art form more than a medical practice. Everyone in my family knows that if they undergo a procedure, they have to demand to have an anesthesiologist present. Not a nurse anesthetist or a physician’s assistant, but an MD specializing in anesthesiology.
What do you like about working at Allied Anesthesia?
It’s been incredible to get to work in so many fields of anesthesia alongside such talented people. There are leadership opportunities here at Allied, and I’m not just a cog in an enormous healthcare machine. I’m practicing the kind of medicine I want to practice and have the freedom and support to be a true advocate for my patients. It’s the best job I can imagine.