DEI Featured News

New department initiative launches to improve and sustain a positive, inclusive environment

In July 2021, the Office of Education at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis implemented an institution-wide initiative called Supporting A Fair Environment (SAFE) to address mistreatment and unprofessional behaviors in the learning environment for all members of the WashU and BJC communities. The SAFE program will include: (i) a single, central reporting system; (ii) a processes for incident evaluation and intervention; (iii) education modules; (iv) tracking and reporting of incident data; and (v) ongoing evaluation of the SAFE program. The excellent video titled, “Mistreatments in the Learning Environment” provides a salient example of the educational modules.

To complement the university’s SAFE initiative, the department has launched a new program called Peers in Anesthesiology Supporting a Fair Environment (PIA SAFE). This peer-based program will help address concerns about negative behaviors, conflicts, and microaggressions experienced by members of our department.

“We must present opportunities for our staff, trainees, educators, researchers, and clinicians to express any concerns without fear of repercussion,” said Michael S. Avidan, MBBCh, the Dr. Seymour and Rose T. Brown Professor and head of the Department of Anesthesiology. “We need to ensure we’re always working towards building a positive and safe culture and to create an environment in which everyone can thrive and actualize their potential.”

Members of the Anesthesiology Department were recently encouraged to consider applying to the PIA SAFE program as a peer advocate. Over 25 department members were quick to volunteer and these individuals will receive training and experience in mediation and conflict resolution.

“We are thrilled to see such a diverse group of department members express interest in PIA SAFE as it reflects the commitment and widespread impact this program will have on our department culture,” said Residency Program Director, Allison Mitchell, MD.

“PIA SAFE will create an environment where all residents, SRNAs, CRNAs, APPs, fellows, faculty, researchers, and administrators can feel empowered and supported by team members in their unique areas.”

Allison Mitchell, MD, residency program director

PIA SAFE Volunteers*

Heather Acuff, PGY-2 ResidentRyan Lee, PGY-3 Resident
Michael Avidan, Head of the Department of AnesthesiologyAndrea Liefer, Chief Pediatric CRNA
Kara Bockius, Fellowship Coordinator, Critical CareHerman Luther, PGY-2 Resident
Kelly Chilson, Associate Professor, Pediatric AnesthesiologyBruno Maranhao, Clinical Fellow, Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology
Meaghan Creed, Assistant Professor, Washington University Pain CenterScott Markowitz, Vice-Chair for Professional Development and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Anne DeSchryver, Director of Business OperationsAllison Mitchell, Residency Program Director
Avi Dobrusin, PGY-2 ResidentDolores Njoku, Division Chief of Pediatric Anesthesiology
Cat Foster, Instructor, General Anesthesiology and Perioperative MedicineUchenna Ofoma, Director of Christian Hospital ICU
Robert Gereau IV, Vice Chair for Research; Director of the Washington University Pain CenterTodd Rackohn, PGY-3 Resident
Natasha Goodwin, CRNA, Barnes-Jewish West County HospitalDavid Rasche, PGY-4 Resident
Hanna Graczyk, Clinical Operations AssistantRashmi Rathor, Assistant Professor, General Anesthesia
Mike Havenar, Compliance and Outreach Lead Nurse Practitioner, Critical CareClare Ridley, Director of the Surgical COVID ICU; Assistant Director in the Cardiothoracic ICU
Erin Herrera, Assistant Director for CRNA ActivitiesFurqaan Sadiq, Clinical Fellow, Critical Care
Rocco Hueneke, Assistant Professor, Cardiothoracic AnesthesiologyJessica Sanford, Instructor, Anesthesiology
Cathy Ifune, Associate Professor, General AnesthesiaElvira Sayfutdinova, CRNA, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and St. Louis Children’s Hospital
Kirin Khan, PGY-2 ResidentManjaap Sidhu, PGY-3 Resident
Joe Kras, Associate Professor, AnesthesiologyParita Sutaria, PGY-1 Resident
Rainier Kentner, Instructor, AnesthesiologyDouglas Thompson, Vice Chair for Education
Chris Lee, Associate Professor, AnesthesiologyBrandon White, PGY-3 Resident
* Leadership is currently working with the individuals listed above to provide proper training and support. An announcement will be made in the future about how to report concerns and meet with these peer advocates.

The SAFE initiative and the department’s PIA SAFE program, combined with the efforts from School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, are significant indicators of the commitment to improve the overall culture in the department and across the School of Medicine.

“We are persistently seeking to improve the effectiveness of our clinical, educational, research, and administrative environments and enhance our ability to provide excellent outcomes in each area,” said Scott Markowitz, vice chair for professional development and diversity, equity and inclusion.

“In a department of hundreds, we greatly appreciate the incredible number of people in every area who are committed to excelling in our mission, including the mission to be of support to one another in fostering a more ideal environment for us all.”

If you are a member of the Department of Anesthesiology and interested in learning more or joining the PIA SAFE program, please contact Maureen Arends at