What Dr. Edward Sunoo didn’t realize was that this would be the first day of a 44-year career that would span nearly a dozen presidential elections and enormous changes in medicine.
“I was recruited by staff anesthesiologist Dr. Ellis,” said Dr. Sunoo. “I knew of his good reputation and the other anesthesiologists at Akron Children’s – Dr. Donald Nelson, Dr. William Ellis, Jr. and Dr. William Brideweser. I knew I wanted to be a part of that team.”
By the numbers
In 1971, the hospital’s anesthesiology department had 5 physicians and 3 rotating residents. Today, there are 31 in the department including 12 physicians and 19 certified nurse anesthetists.
While these numbers speak volumes about the growing need for anesthesia since the 70s, the biggest change Dr. Sunoo has seen during his tenure is safety.
“Pediatric anesthesia has become much safer over the years,” he said. “There is more data, better equipment, innovative procedures, improved surgery outcomes, and a host of talented people who work together to keep patients safe and comfortable. Anesthesia isn’t a scary unknown for patients. It’s proven, effective and safe.”
Keeping in lockstep with changes in safety protocols is the continuous improvement in patient care.
“There are a lot of new specialties and departments the hospital has added during my time here,” Dr. Sunoo said. “All of it has been put in place to better serve our patients.”
In 1971, the department saw an average of 7-10 patients a day. Forty-four years later, the department has seen its own type of inflation, now serving an average of 60 patients per day.
Technology and streamlined processes have played a major role in this uptick. But Dr. Sunoo also attributes the rise to simple math.
“There are more people in the world so there are more patients. We’ve also had a lot of additions to our surgical staff which, in turn, creates a need for more anesthesia staff,” he said. “While our numbers have increased, so has our staff and equipment so we can continue to take our time with patients.”
In 2013, the team performed about 15,000 pediatric anesthetic procedures. Dr. Sunoo credits this success to the skill and dedication of his team and the strong leadership of Dr. Ibrahim Farid, chair of the department of anesthesia and pain medicine.
Change is the only constant
On a typical day in the office, you can find Dr. Sunoo reviewing patient medical information, making phone calls to discuss patient care, visiting pre-op patients, and monitoring patient recovery – just like he did in 1971.
Upon retirement, though, a typical day for Dr. Sunoo will look a lot less “typical.”
“I hope each day will offer something new for me just like working at the hospital,” he said. “I look forward to working with my church and community charities, as well as spending more time with my wife.”
Although a lot has changed since Dr. Sunoo started, a few things have remained the same.
“It has been my privilege to work with the most dedicated physicians and nurse anesthetists at Children’s, which has always been a constant,” said Dr. Sunoo. “I also feel the vision and leadership of one man, Mr. William Considine, has brought Akron Children’s to the top of pediatric care. His ongoing efforts to expand and improve care ensure a bright future for the hospital. I’m grateful to have been a part of the Children’s family for so many years.”
On April 1, Dr. Sunoo will find himself on day one of a new journey – retirement. We hope it offers him a long tenure filled with many new endeavors and unexpected joys.
As part of our year-long anniversary celebration, we’ll be telling the story of Akron Children’s through the eyes of past and present employees, doctors, donors, volunteers and patient families. We encourage you to share your own memories and stories about us.