Academic Anesthesiology All-Star, Shining at Patient Care, Teaching, and Leadership

Working in a bustling operating room, keeping her patients safe and comfortable even when procedures don’t go exactly as planned, is where Dr. Mojca Konia, MD, PhD, likes to be. It’s even better when she gets to use her expertise to simultaneously teach residents and collaborate with other clinicians.

Konia, an associate professor of anesthesiology, thrives in the unknown of the OR, where acute situations arise and medical providers need to intervene swiftly and correctly. As a doctor who specializes in cardiothoracic and vascular anesthesiology for adults and children, Konia encounters these unknowns regularly.

“It’s a fast-paced specialty where things happen quickly and you have to be able to respond quickly with somewhat limited information. I enjoy that piece of it,” says Konia. “Knowing that you contributed to the safety of the procedure for any patient is very important to me, and so is seeing that the patient does well afterward.”

A native of Slovenia who comes from a family of physicians, Konia finished medical school there and came to California to do research for her doctorate in cardiology. She completed a residency in internal medicine and critical care in Europe, then returned to the United States to meld all her interests by becoming an anesthesiologist who specializes in cardiology. In 2008, Konia joined the University of Minnesota and started making an immediate impact.

In addition to treating patients of all ages, Konia plays several key roles in the Department of Anesthesia that tie together her passions for teaching, training, research, and collaboration. She serves as residency program director and vice chair of education, as well as clinical director of the anesthesiology/critical- care skills simulation lab. Recently Konia became acting director of the University’s SimPORTAL, where she is helping shape the future of simulation education as the Medical School creates one comprehensive center and relocates to a new building.

Konia also takes time to work with others on projects, such as a collaborating with people in different medical specialties or fields like biomedical and mechanical engineering. Her latest work includes developing new intubating devices, transfusion medicine simulations, and a revamped ethics curriculum. She also volunteers on medical mission trips to countries like Mexico, Guatemala, and Peru to provide anesthesia during cleft lip and palate repairs.

Konia’s education work stems from her love of teaching—and talent for it. During her career, Konia has received five awards for excellence in teaching. She even returned to school to earn a master’s degree in academic medicine from University of Southern California to study highly effective medical education. Konia truly enjoys teaching residents and helping them develop the necessary skills to become excellent anesthesiologists.

“Ultimately, teaching is one of the best things you can be a part of. Someone comes in with limited knowledge of anesthesiology; you get these individuals to a point where you know if you have to have anesthesia tomorrow, you’d be quite content that this physician is taking care of you,” Konia says. “That’s a fun process.”

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