It’s hard to overstate the impact that Edward A. Norfleet, MD ’70 Distinguished Professor of Anesthesiology Harendra Arora, MD, MBA, FASA has made at UNC Anesthesiology and UNC School of Medicine (SOM) over almost 14 years. His achievements advancing the tripartite mission in academic medicine (patient care, education, and research) are the marks of a leader who is ready to effect change at the next level. In February 2023, that next opportunity awaits Dr. Arora as he departs UNC to begin serving as the Chair of Anesthesiology at the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC) in Jackson, Mississippi.
Arriving in Chapel Hill with his family in July 2009, Dr. Arora brought to UNC early-career experience overseeing clinical operations at a veterans healthcare system and two large academic medical centers (AMCs). As UNC’s Vascular and Transplant Anesthesia Division Chief, Dr. Arora’s quiet command facilitating team-focused patient care gained notice.
In July 2012, Dr. Arora was named Vice Chair of Education and Residency Program Director (PD) for anesthesiology. Inheriting a training program with multiple graduate medical education (ACGME) citations, he assembled an academic-focused leadership team that prepared for a high-stakes ACGME site visit and review of the anesthesiology program. Just three months later, the program not only achieved full ACGME Accreditation, but also commendation.
Over 10 years, Dr. Arora brought program leadership and trainees together to broaden what anesthesiology education at UNC could offer next-generation anesthesiologists. Multiple innovative initiatives were introduced during his term as PD to enrich the training experience for residents. The program began offering a dual track in advanced public health education (MHA or MPH) to residents. The academic medicine rotation, Objective Structured Clinical Exams (OSCE) training, CA-1 “Family Anesthesia Day,” personal finance curriculum, a pathway for basic TEE certification, team-based quality improvement initiatives, and other innovative components enriched the program further under Dr. Arora’s leadership.
Dr. Arora noted: “I always believed my role was to empower our outstanding team of educators and trainees. If a resident or faculty member came up with an idea that would strengthen or enhance our residency program, we would give it serious consideration. We are a much stronger program today due to the collective efforts of our faculty and our trainees. It really does take a village.”
In early 2023, UNC Professor of Anesthesiology and former Associate PD Rob Isaak, DO, FASA, succeeded Dr. Arora as Vice Chair of Education. Dr. Isaak noted:
“Dr. Arora has been an advocate, leader, and most notably, an innovator in graduate medical education at UNC. Under his leadership, we implemented countless innovative programs that benefited so many young physicians and their patients.”
Dr. Arora was named multiple times to the Department’s “Outstanding Clinical Research Faculty” roster, as well as Clinical Researcher of the Year. Over the years, he encouraged research project collaboration among residents and faculty, as well as team-based QI projects. Now embedded in program structure, faculty mentoring has helped residents develop research submissions, obtain funding, win awards at research symposiums, and acceptances of abstracts and presentations at major conferences.
In 2020, UNC Professor of Anesthesiology Susie Martinelli, MD, FASA, succeeded Dr. Arora as Residency PD. Dr. Martinelli cites Dr. Arora as an instrumental influence in her path to becoming a nationally recognized leader in anesthesiology education. She noted:
“Dr. Arora is an outstanding clinician in all aspects of anesthesiology, a productive researcher, and respected teacher. In the years I worked with him as Associate [PD], he was an encouraging mentor who supported my professional growth and development.”
Serving citizens statewide is a linkage for academic physicians moving from one flagship hospital to the next. UNC and UMMC are similar in many ways as large AMCs serving the people of their respective states, yet significant differences exist. UNC Hospitals is an expansive, rapidly growing and better-resourced healthcare system. It’s also one of four AMCs in North Carolina. By contrast, UMMC is the only Level 1 AMC serving the much lower-resourced State of Mississippi.
Dr. Arora noted: “The valuable career lessons I’ve learned at UNC will serve me in a new role that is much broader than any I’ve held before. My goal will be to continually improve our team’s ability to deliver the highest quality of patient care at the only [AMC] in Mississippi, to educate the next-generation of physicians, and to promote innovative biomedical and clinical research.
I look forward to providing new direction to a large department within an institution that has the same tri-partite mission as UNC. Building and empowering teams of stakeholders will be a vital part of creating solutions that are uniquely suited to the anesthesia care needs of the people [UMMC] serves.”
UNC Department of Anesthesiology Chair David Zvara, MD, FASA, stated: “Dr. Arora gave his all to UNC. He had an immediate impact on our team, and his influence and reach only grew. From Division Chief to Program Director to Vice Chair of Education, Dr. Arora helped make this department what it is today — a caring and high-achieving department of excellence.”