BY INDIANA NASH
NISKAYUNA — Dr. Michael Jakubowski’s career may have been dedicated to putting patients to sleep, but his passion for the profession is far from dull.
This is, in part, why Jakubowski was honored with the Distinguished Service Award by the New York State Society of Anesthesiologists on Dec. 10.
The longtime Niskayuna resident has practiced anesthesiology in Schenectady for over 35 years and has been as influential on the clinical side of the field as on the administrative side.
His interest in the medical field started when he was growing up in Newark, New Jersey, and had his own experience of going under the knife.
“When I was 15, I had an appendectomy. I saw how the staff at the hospital admired the surgeons,” Jakubowski said.
From then on, he worked to become a physician. He attended St. Peter’s College for his bachelor’s degree before going on to Tufts School of Medicine.
After serving the Navy at its research laboratory in Chelsea, Mass., and at its medical center in Oakland, California, Jakubowski wanted to move closer to his family.
In 1976, he moved to Schenectady and began his career with Schenectady Anesthesia Associates.
“I came up here for an interview on one of those rare beautiful days in March. I asked them if it was like this here all the time and they said, ‘Oh, yes!’” laughed Jakubowski.
Despite the false claim, Jakubowski grew to love the area and the job.
Besides treating patients, he became involved in the New York State Society of Anesthesiologists, the state Department of Health’s NY Patient Occurrence Participant and Tracking System, and several committees of the board at Ellis Hospital.
Serving on these committees and on boards over the years, Jakubowski has come to realize how invaluable it is for anesthesiologists to be involved on the administrative side of the industry.
“I’ve never been shy about expressing my opinion when I sit on a committee or a board … hopefully to a constructive end,” Jakubowski said.
In his experience, many anesthesiologists don’t understand how much they can bring to the medical community.
“Some anesthesiologists don’t appreciate that they are physicians with vast medical knowledge,” Jakubowski said, adding that physicians who specialize in anesthesiology also have a deeper understanding of pharmaceuticals.
This comes into play most obviously during patient interactions, when an anesthesiologist has to determine whether a patient is fit to undergo surgery.
“They can tip the scales,” Jakubowski said. Even if another physician has deemed the patient ready for surgery, an anesthesiologist may say that they aren’t ready and make recommendations as to how the patient may become ready.
During his time at Schenectady Anesthesia Associates, Jakubowski said he’s seen incredible advancement in medical technology.
“We had a blood pressure cuff, a thermometer and a finger on the pulse,” Jakubowski said.
Now there are pulse oximetry devices, EKG machines and non-invasive blood pressure devices.
These have helped physicians become more effective in treating their patients.
But there’s another aspect to being in the medical field — one Jakubowski believes that doctors and medical professionals not only have a right to but have an obligation to.
“Be involved in your legislature,” Jakubowski said.
He often contacts his local senators and assemblymen and meets with them directly in their local offices.
Whenever legislation is being considered that has anything to do with patient care, billing or treatment, Jakubowski believes that it’s important for the medical community to be involved and to share their perspective.
Since his retirement from clinical work in 2014, Jakubowski has been more connected than ever in the Legislature and with the board of directors for Ellis Hospital.
He is also the medical coordinator for the state Department of Health, a position in which he helps to review physician care and investigate any complaints reported against all physicians.
Retirement is just a word, not a lifestyle for Jakubowski.
However, in his time away from the clinical side of the field, Jakubowski said that receiving the Distinguished Service Award from NYSSA was both a surprise and an enormous honor.
“I look upon myself receiving this award as joining the ranks of specialists who have accomplished a lot for the specialty,” he said.