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Paul Warner, M.D. – first Teacher of the Year Award, first year teaching

paul warner

Paul Warner, M.D.

Paul Warner, M.D. (MED ’12, I-1 ’13, ANES ’16), comes from a family steeped in anesthesiology. Six other members of his family are in the department at Mayo Clinic, and others work or have worked in anesthesiology in other parts of the country. Given that legacy, it can be difficult to make your mark in the field and to score a “first.” Dr. Warner succeeded in that regard when he received a Teacher of the Year Award from the Mayo Fellows’ Association in his first year on the staff – his first year of teaching – becoming the first anesthesiologist-Warner at Mayo to receive this recognition.

Dr. Warner is a senior associate consultant in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. He joined the staff in 2016 and is an instructor in anesthesiology. He teaches a variety of courses in the traditional classroom but spends the majority of his educational time in the Multidisciplinary Simulation Center with anesthesia residents and Mayo Clinic School of Medicine students.

How do you know when you’ve done a good job teaching?

When, during the course of our discussions in the operating room, students come up with questions that I still don’t know the answers to or need a refresher on, I know we’re learning together and the process is becoming dynamic. I learn just as much from the residents I interact with as I think they do from me. I look up all of this “new” information every day. It helps me to feel connected to the process of continually learning.

What’s rewarding about teaching?

One day I emailed a resident to tell her that it had been a good day in the OR and that it was really good to work with her that day. I asked her to let me know if there was anything I could improve upon or do better next time. She replied, “Always appreciate real-time critical feedback. We definitely don’t get enough of it! And if the fact that when I open the attending consultant assignment spreadsheet at night and see your name assigned to my room, I give an audible ‘yes!’ is any indication … it’s always the best to learn from you.” That was a huge morale booster.

I know from my own residency that some consultants can be fairly intimidating to the point that you actually perform worse because you feel like you are constantly critiqued under the microscope. I like to make the process safe, enjoyable and less intimidating. I like for the residents to feel that we’re working together to figure things out.

After college I worked at a group home for adult with developmental disabilities. In the office of my boss there was a saying on his wall: “To improve someone’s day is no small task. In fact, it is the greatest.” Literally every single day of my life, I try to live by that saying. In the OR I might do something as simple as charting on the computer for the residents or get a medication for them so that they can focus on delivering the highest quality care and attention to the patient. Helping them in these small ways, I think, can make their day easier and better, and it makes me feel like I’m doing something good, even when it’s small.

What’s your teaching style?

I approach teaching as a conversation — “What do you think about this?” “What if this or that changed in the patient’s condition?” Whether I’m teaching in the OR, classroom or simulation center, I’m pretty relaxed and nonconfrontational. I think that’s just my general personality leaking out. I try to break down the barriers between consultant and student or resident and just be relatable. I let them know I’ve made the same mistakes that they have made and that gaining knowledge is a fluid process that never stops, even when you’re graduated from residency.

I try to spend a lot of time with the residents in the OR. Anesthesia can be isolating because you’re often in a room by yourself. There are a lot of times that, for a variety of reasons, the attending anesthesiologist is called to a different OR or pre-op or post-op area. I try my hardest to stay in the OR with the residents to help out, provide support and educate. I probably spend less time hanging out with my colleagues in the work room, doing research or returning email, but that’s OK. My focus is more education-driven. I like to make my trainees’ lives easier, and I love hanging out with them.

Who were your teaching role models?

Laurence Torsher, M.D. (CCM-A ’93, AN-TR ’94), in my department helped set up a role in education for me and is a major role model. He’s involved in medical education at the national level, especially in simulation training. Our residency director, Tim Long, M.D. (ANES ’98), also has been instrumental in providing me with opportunities in education within our department. He is a dedicated and enthusiastic educator himself, so he has definitely been a huge role model as well.

What does the teacher of the year award mean to you?

I’m incredibly thankful. Really. When I got the email notifying me about the award, I was obviously very happy. I spent a lot of time this year developing curriculum for didactic sessions and simulation training. I’m glad the residents recognize the time and effort that a lot of us in the department put into teaching. The award was a nice validation of this. But I couldn’t have done this on my own, and any number of my colleagues would be incredibly deserving of this award, too.

It’s great that the Fellows Association and Alumni Association have these awards and the ceremony. That this component of medicine is valued is awesome. I’m happy to be at an institution that recognizes the value in education. Being in that group in that room of so many incredible educators in clinical medicine was both inspiring and humbling, and it made me feel vastly underqualified!

Student comments:

“Dr. Warner takes an incredible amount of time, pride and dedication to be constantly teaching and involved with resident teaching throughout the whole day, no matter how busy he is. He’s constantly in communication with new articles and methods.”

“He makes it a priority throughout the day to make our cases fun, interesting and full of learning. He provides fantastic intraoperative teaching!”

paul warner

Paul Warner, M.D.

Fast 5 with Dr. Warner

1. You have a family legacy in anesthesia at Mayo Clinic. Your parents, Mark Warner, M.D. (ANES ’80, ANES ’82), and Mary Ellen Warner, M.D. (ANES ’83), are on staff as is your father’s cousin, David Warner, M.D. (ANES ’87). Your younger brother, Matthew Warner, M.D. (MED ’12, ANES ’16), and his wife, Nafisseh Warner, M.D. (MED ’12, ANES ’16), are doing fellowships at Mayo Clinic, and your wife, Lindsay Warner, M.D. (MED ’14, I ’15), is a resident. Is it hard to find your niche?

Out of the 150 or so anesthesiologists at Mayo in Rochester, seven of us are Warners! In addition, my dad’s aunt and uncle are the ones who started the Warner trend in anesthesiology at Ohio State. Also, my cousin, Natalie Dean, M.D. (I-1 ’13), graduated from residency with me and is doing a fellowship in pediatric anesthesiology at Emory in Atlanta. My dad, mom and my dad’s cousin (we call him “Uncle”) are all on staff here in the Department of Anesthesiology. My wife, one brother and his wife are all in anesthesiology training here, too. So, yeah, there is a lot of anesthesia in the family gene pool.

Many of the younger generation of Warners in anesthesiology are doing fellowships and will be specialists in anesthesiology. I applied for a pain medicine fellowship and then was offered a job in general anesthesia at Mayo. I took the generalist job with a focus on education because staying at Mayo on staff is something you just don’t turn down, and the value that is placed on teaching here is so important to me. I grew up with Mayo Clinic, so it was an easy decision to make and it allowed me to stay at Mayo. And I truly, truly enjoy being a general anesthesiologist in the OR.

While I’d like not to believe it, I’m keenly aware that nepotism exists in the world, and it may be perceived by others that it was easier for me to get on staff here because of my family’s strong presence in anesthesiology at Mayo and nationally. But realizing that makes me try even harder every day to validate my role in the department and differentiate myself through my efforts in education. So this education award was a huge deal for many reasons.

2. Despite your parents being on staff in anesthesiology, you were the first to receive a Teacher of the Year Award. How did that feel?

My parents were very proud. I think they’re extremely happy that I’ve found my niche in education. It’s also really cool to be the first in the family to achieve this award.

3. You took a circuitous route to medicine. How did that happen?

It took me a while to get into medicine. My parents let us be who we were as kids and never pushed medicine on us. In college I didn’t know what I wanted to do. In fact I never really wanted to go to college, but I’m super happy my mom made me! I enjoyed language and culture, so I majored in Spanish and anthropology at the University of Minnesota. I spent a year living with a family in Toledo, Spain. After that I thought about being a national park guide. Shortly after graduation I got a job at a group home in the Twin Cities, working with adults with developmental disabilities. I did that for a year and then applied to law school. My heart wasn’t in law, so I quit after a few days and went back to the group home, where I remained for four more years. In that job I had a lot of contact with nurses and became interested in medical science and read about the medications many of our clients took. I went back to school to take the prerequisite courses for nursing. That led me to thinking about medical school, so I took those prerequisites and eventually ended up at Mayo Clinic School of Medicine, where I debated between anesthesiology and emergency medicine — ultimately choosing anesthesiology.

4. What do you do besides work?

My wife and I have two children — Elli, who is 3, and Charlotte, who is 8 months old. My wife is truly incredible, not only as a wife, mother and independent woman, but she is impressively driven in her career development. I watch her and think to myself, “Man, how does she keep this going?” But she does. And she does everything 100 percent well. She is insanely efficient and talented at all of her niches in life. Actually, she reminds me a lot of my mom. While being a dad in medicine can be tough, being a mom in medicine is on a whole different level. My wife motivates me every day just through her example to be a better father, spouse and colleague. She doesn’t even have to say anything to motivate me. She is just that good.

Besides family life, my passion is bicycling. I spent a lot of my extracurricular time throughout the years on a bike — either commuting to school, mountain biking, road biking or, now, mainly gravel biking. The gravel roads in Minnesota are exceptionally awesome, and the scenery can be beautiful even though a lot of it is country crop land. It’s really just awesome to get out and stretch the legs and push myself on the bike. I love to watch professional cycling, too. While a lot of people watch Fox, CNN or MSNBC, I pretty much spend time reading and watching cycling news.

5. What was it like growing up in such a Mayo-centric family?

I’m extremely fortunate to have the upbringing I had and parents who loved us, not just their work. They never seemed to bring work home. It was always separate — at least that’s how it felt to me. I always felt very loved and nurtured, and my brothers and I knew our parents very well.

Growing up, I knew a lot of the people at Mayo, but I just knew them as family friends. I didn’t know what they or my parents really did on a daily basis. It’s pretty awesome that now I’ve actually had the privilege to work with some of them and even gotten to work with my parents a handful of times. That is truly very cool.

Two of my brothers aren’t in medicine. Mark is an F-16 pilot in the Air Force, and Danny, who also graduated from the Air Force Academy, is a beer brewer at Bell’s Brewery in Michigan. Our brother, Matt, graduated from Mayo Clinic School of Medicine and anesthesiology residency with me, and now he’s doing an extra year of fellowship training in critical care medicine at Mayo. He’ll join us on staff this summer.

Our parents are equally proud of all of us. They told us not to do something we didn’t love, and I think we’ve all made them proud by doing things that truly make us happy and fulfilled. I never thought I’d be married, have kids be a doctor or be in Rochester, but I’m so glad I am. I absolutely love my life, my family, our friends and my job here! I wouldn’t change any of it at all.


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