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Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

IIn this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

Athos Rassias, M.D.
Associate Professor of Anesthesiology

Rassias specializes in critical care medicine and adult cardiac anesthesia. He has been on the Dartmouth faculty since 1994 and is a DMS '89.

What is your most memorable accomplishment?
Thanks to this magazine, if you type my name into Google, the second thing that pops up is that I came in third in a look-like-your-dog contest. I'm very proud of that, but it's more of a fact than an accomplishment. I have been running our fellowship in critical-care medicine for about a decade. The process of helping someone set goals, work to achieve them, and then move on is rewarding. To play a small part in helping talented people is a satisfying accomplishment.

Are there misconceptions people have about your field?
There are many misconceptions about anesthesiology. It's a difficult specialty to define for those not involved in it. Nobody knows what we really do! Critical-care medicine is also an area about which there are many misconceptions. Part of this stems from the fact that every hospital has different models for care. As I heard recently at a conference, "If you've seen one ICU, then you've seen one ICU."

Before you were 12, what did you think you wanted to be?
When I was much younger than that, around four, I would respond to that question by stating that I wanted to be a dog. When I was 12, I likely had no idea what I wanted to be, or that I had to be anything. I was interested in just about everything at school. I was certainly drawn to the sciences, but literature captivated me, too.

What is the greatest frustration in your work? And the greatest joy?
I become frustrated when the forest is ignored for the sake of the trees. I derive satisfaction when the system works—which it almost always does. Caring for a critically ill patient involves a multitude of problems and issues. Managing these issues necessitates having a team that works well together. It's rewarding and fun to watch and participate in this process.

Who are your heroes, fictional or real?
I draw inspiration from many individuals but especially from my wife, my children, and my parents. Honesty, integrity, and competency are the characteristics central to a personal hero for me.

What do you think makes for a successful physician?
Using the trust that a patient has in you as the central aspect of your decision-making process. It's as simple as that.

What's your favorite nonwork activity?
Over the last few years I have devoted a lot of time to cycling. I fancy that one of these days I will become a top-notch cyclist, hitting the Pyrenees like a climbing specialist and then moving on to win the sprints as well. In some ways, parts of this dream are not unreasonable, as I would love to have my children spend time growing up in a foreign country, as I did in France when I was a child.

What about you would surprise most people?
That I love to bake bread. I derive a huge sense of accomplishment from this simple activity. And I love it when others enjoy my products. My favorite loaf is a French country bread, pain de campagne. There is a seemingly infinite variety to this one loaf.

Hollywood is doing a movie of your life. Who plays you?
John Travolta. Oddly enough, I've had two patients tell me recently that I look like him. However, one of them added quickly, "But not the young Travolta, the older one." I wasn't sure what to make of that, but it did make me smile.

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