Holly Muir, MD, has been leading the Department of Anesthesiology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC since January. She specializes in obstetric anesthesia and has published extensively on the management of childbirth pain. Muir previously spent 18 years at Duke University School of Medicine. She spoke with HSC News about her background and what her plans are for the department.


How did you get into anesthesiology?

I have been in this field for more than 30 years, but when I finished my internship I thought I wanted to be a surgeon. Even still, it was very trendy back then to work in family medicine — then called general practice — so I spent a year working in the community. It was a small town, and I covered the emergency room shift and really got to know the anesthesiologists. I saw the skill set they had and the acute nature of their responses, and I always liked the essence of anesthesiology, which is pharmacology and physiology.


What is something you think people should know about anesthesiology that might be a surprise to learn?

Anesthesia is often viewed as a hospital-based profession, but we touch of a lot of areas. We can be facilitators of growth and development, and people may not be aware of the skill set required to succeed in this field. This is why one of my goals for the department is to increase our visibility within the enterprise.


Do you have any hobbies or unusual interests that you’d like to share?

I am actively engaged in global health and have traveled to both Africa and Haiti to work on global health missions. My biggest project was in Ghana. I was one of the key initiators for a nurse anesthetist training school with which I continue to work. Since the training program started seven years ago, we have trained 150 people. My passion is extending into the global community, which does not necessarily mean I have to go across the ocean. I am interested in community affairs and how I can help the local community outside of my health center. It has always been a real pleasure to use my skills to help people who are suffering.


Is there something about yourself that you want to make sure people know?

My major focus when I come to work on the clinical side is always the patient. I strongly advocate for patients getting best possible care, no matter what clinical arena I am working in. I was a bit of a radical in the 1970s, advocating for woman’s rights, which is why I went into obstetrics. Women did not have access to pain relief. Women had to ask for permission for epidurals and they received pain medications only in special cases. My goal was to change that and I did a lot of groundbreaking work in that area. I continue to be an advocate for women in medicine, to ensure they are treated fairly and that their needs are respected. In fact, I am a strong advocate for personal rights for anybody, which is why I love global health.


What are your plans for the department?

I want to develop a program for the Department of Anesthesiology to foster academic and professional growth for the faculty. Moreover, I would like to strengthen our department’s relationships with both the health center and the university.

— Mary Dacuma