UMKC anesthesiologist assistant program making an impact across Missouri and the United States


MSA program director Melanie Guthrie, M.S.A., C.A.A., leads students in training at the School of Medicine’s Clinical Training Facility.

Twelve years ago, when the UMKC School of Medicine opened its Master of Science in Anesthesia program, Missouri had fewer than 10 licensed anesthesiologist assistants. Today, there are 181 certified anesthesiologist assistants practicing throughout the state. More than half of them are UMKC program graduates.

This year, the School of Medicine’s MSA program will celebrate its 10th graduating class. All 12 graduates have already secured jobs before they even leave UMKC.

Melanie Guthrie, M.S.A., C.A.A., director of the UMKC program, said that more than 70 percent of the graduating class will be providing anesthesia care for patients in the Midwest.

“This is a wonderful time to reflect on the effect our Anesthesiologist Assistant program has had on the anesthesia care teams for all Missourians,” Guthrie said. “Our graduates work in roles such as major urban city hospital operating rooms. They have had a positive impact on staffing and the effectiveness of the care of their patients.”

UMKC is home to one of only 12 anesthesiologist assistant programs in the country. Created to address a shortage of anesthesia care providers in Missouri and across the United States, the impact of the school’s program and its 91 graduates has been far-reaching.

The current chair and vice chair of the Missouri Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants and the current secretary of the American Academy of Anesthesiologist Assistants are all UMKC program graduates.  Many of the program’s graduates have also taken on leadership roles at their respective hospitals, serving on committees or providing clinical coordination for student rotations, Guthrie said.

“We encourage our students and graduates to be advocates of their profession and safe and quality health care practices,” Guthrie said. “Many of our graduates have served in leadership roles at the national, state and local levels.”

Guthrie and assistant program director Lance Carter, M.S.A., C.A.A., have been with the program since its inception. Both have been involved with leadership roles on national levels, as well.

Guthrie currently chairs the Association of Anesthesiologist Assistant Education Programs. She also serves on the American Society of Anesthesiologists committee on anesthesiologist assistant education and practice. She recently completed terms as a board member on the Accreditation Review Committee for anesthesiologist assistants and as a commissioner for the National Commission for Certification of Anesthesiologist Assistants.

Carter has published videos for nationally recognized textbooks and served as a test writer for the National Board of Medical Examiners’ anesthesiologist assistant certification exam.

“With the continued support of the physician anesthesiologists in the state and the leadership of the administration at the UMKC School of Medicine, we will continue to contribute to the anesthesia care team through the next decade,” Guthrie said.