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Dr. David MacDonald receives Dr. Tom Marrie Award for leadership and excellence in anesthesia care

By Jessica Long

(in Photo) Dr. Janice Chisholm, Anesthesiologist with Nova Scotia Health and Head of the Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management & Perioperative Medicine (left); Dr. David MacDonald, medical director of Perioperative Medicine for the department of anesthesiology (centre); and Dr. Andre Bernard, Anesthesiologist with Nova Scotia Health and an associate professor and associate head of the Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management & Perioperative (right).

Dr. David MacDonald recently received the 2023 Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management, and Perioperative Medicine’s Dr. Tom Marrie Award. The award recognizes the individual who best exemplifies Dr. Marrie, Dalhousie University’s former dean of medicine’s leadership qualities of vision, integrity, patience, humility and compassion.

Dr. MacDonald received his award at an April 26 ceremony hosted by Dalhousie. Dr. MacDonald was nominated for the award by colleagues Dr. André Bernard and supported by Dr. Greg Hirsch. He described Drs. Bernard and Hirsch as outstanding role models. Dr. Bernard was also instrumental in his medical training.

Originally from Fredericton, New Brunswick, Dr. MacDonald completed ungraduated studies at Mount Allison University before attending medical school at Memorial University. He completed residency training in anesthesiology at Dalhousie University in 2016 followed by a fellowship in perioperative medicine at the University of Ottawa.  He is currently the medical director of Perioperative Medicine for the department of anesthesiology at Dalhousie University.

Dr. MacDonald has been fundamental in the development of a health questionnaire to determine pre-surgery tests and supports a patient requires. This helps avoid unnecessary clinic visits, testing, travel and costs. The questionnaire asks patients about medications or supplements they take, allergies and other health problems, mobility issues, supports they may need after surgery and past surgeries.

“Of course, we want to think about costs to the health care system, but we also need consider that patients are often taking time off work for these tests. The goal of the questionnaire is to standardize health screening prior to surgery across Nova Scotia,” said Dr. MacDonald. The questionnaire was piloted in Central Zone for two years and work is ongoing to expand the use of the questionnaire across the province and at the IWK.

Dr. MacDonald is currently a member of the Perioperative Anesthesia Clinical Trials (PACT) group and the Society for Perioperative Research and Care. He is also an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesia, Pain Management & Perioperative Medicine at Dalhousie University.

“What I love about teaching is that I learn just as much from medical students, residents and fellows as they learn from me,” said Dr. MacDonald. “I can stay at forefront of the newest literature to provide the best care to patients. Teaching excites me and helps me stay current.”

As a researcher, Dr. MacDonald is nationally renowned for his collaborative scholarly contribution in perioperative medicine. His research focuses on frailty, including shared decision making, optimizing frail patients for surgery and ensuring patients have appropriate risk discussions and fully understand what to expect following their procedure.

Dr. MacDonald is part of the Frailty and Healthy Aging Research Group at Dalhousie University, a newly founded initiative consisting of researchers across disciplines to facilitate new research in frailty and aging. He is also involved in a national research study funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). This study explores markers of disability so healthcare providers can better predict patient outcomes following surgery and then help patients make informed decisions about surgery.

“We have a good idea about projected mortality and morbidity in the first 30 days following surgery, but what patients particularly care about is returning to home and if they will require more assistance in their daily lives than they did before. We are trying to better determine what markers are associated with return to normal function and what markers are associated with disability and issues following surgery,” explained Dr. MacDonald.

In his spare time, Dr. MacDonald enjoys getting outside and going for hikes with his two boys and dog. He is also a football fan, and he can sometimes be found at QEII sporting an Atlanta Falcons scrub hat and lanyard. 

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