During more than 40 years on the faculty of Weill Cornell Medicine, Dr. Alan Van Poznak witnessed historic changes in the field of anesthesiology — including the founding of the Department of Anesthesiology at the medical college. On the occasion of Dr. Van Poznak's 90th birthday, members of the Weill Cornell community turned out to celebrate their colleague and honor his pioneering work.
Friends, family and colleagues gathered in the Griffis Faculty Club on January 3 for the birthday celebration.
"Your name will forever be associated with research in the Department of Anesthesiology at Weill Cornell as the namesake for our research scholar program," said Dr. Hugh Hemmings, chair of the department of anesthesiology and senior associate dean for research at Weill Cornell Medicine, noting the Van Poznak Research Scholars in the room.
The Van Poznak Anesthesiology Research Scholarship was established in 2006 to train and develop outstanding scholars who intend to pursue an academic career with an emphasis on research.
Dr. Van Poznak, professor emeritus of anesthesiology, earned his undergraduate and medical degrees from Cornell University. After completing his internship at The New York Hospital, he spent two years as a medical officer in the U.S. army, returning to The New York Hospital to complete residencies in surgery and anesthesiology. In 1958, he joined the Cornell faculty in the division of anesthesiology, then part of the Department of Surgery, and also completed a research fellowship in pharmacology.
With his colleague Dr. Joseph Artusio, the founding chair of the department of anesthesiology, Dr. Van Poznak is credited with the 1960 development of methoxyflurane. By the late 1960s, methoxyflurane was the leading inhalation anesthetic used worldwide.
"In addition to being a researcher, you are a great teacher," said Dr. Hemmings. "Everyone who came in contact with you as a teacher in the operating room has a story to tell. That sort of passion for knowledge, for teaching and for enjoying life is something that inspires us all."
Others offering tributes included Dr. Kevin Morrissey, clinical associate professor of surgery; Dr. Miles Dinner, professor of clinical anesthesiology; Dr. Vinod Malthora, professor of clinical anesthesiology and vice chair of clinical affairs; Dr. Fun-Sun Yao, professor of clinical anesthesiology; and Dr. John Savarese, professor emeritus of anesthesiology and former chair of the department.
In his remarks to Dr. Van Poznak, Dr. Savarese summed up the sentiments of many: "Happy birthday, marvelous human being."