Staff StoryFeb | 1 | 2023
Anesthesia Spotlight: The Ochieng Brothers
Peter and Samwel Ochieng are not just brothers—they’re also colleagues at the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine. Born in Kenya and raised in Tucson, Arizona, the brothers pursued their shared dream of becoming doctors, a dream that came to be after their younger brother passed away from an illness when they were children.
After graduating from Massachusetts General Hospital’s Anesthesia Residency Program and Adult Cardiothoracic Anesthesia Fellowship Program, Peter Ochieng, MD, joined the faculty as a cardiac anesthesiologist. He chose to remain at Mass General following his training because of the high caliber of clinical and academic excellence exhibited by the staff and the pride that the team takes in caring for patients and solving complex cases.
“Mass General is world-renowned for medical care and research, but it’s the people who truly make this place special,” says Dr. Peter Ochieng, born in Migori, Kenya. “I chose to specialize in cardiothoracic anesthesia to take care of the most complex of patients. We are frequently asked to assist in the cardiac intensive care units, support hemodynamic managements, provide echocardiography (ECHO) guidance or ECMO cannulation, and perform rescue ECHO to determine the cause of hemodynamic collapse in emergencies.”
While his brother neared the end of his own training, Samwel Ochieng, MD, continued the Ochieng legacy at Mass General when he joined as an anesthesia resident. Currently a third-year resident, Dr. Samwel Ochieng holds a particular interest in acute pain and regional anesthesia.
“After residency, I hope to build a career focused on clinical anesthesiology and eventually use my expertise to make a difference in Kenya where I was born,” says Dr. Samwel Ochieng, born in Kisumu, Kenya. “The town I grew up in did not have access to any sort of health care infrastructure.”
The brothers in medicine share more about their experiences and approach to patient care at Mass General.
What is unique about the training experience at Mass General?
Dr. Peter Ochieng: One of the benefits of our residency program is the first-call resident segment which is designed to give residents the experience of being an attending by not only running the operating room board but also inducing patients alongside junior residents. As a clinical fellow, I often worked with residents and medical students which gave me additional teaching experience. The combination of both experiences expertly prepared me to be an attending, which has been a very smooth transition.
Dr. Samwel Ochieng: The Anesthesia Residency Program at Mass General has been a transformative experience for me. Every day, I am challenged to grow as a clinician and person. When I interviewed for the program, our program director, Dr. Saddawi-Konefka, really stressed that the department does not look for perfect trainees but rather for trainees who want to learn and adopt a growth mindset above all else. This really stuck with me when I was making my rank list and I decided that this was the place I wanted to train.
What has helped you find success at Mass General?
Dr. Peter Ochieng: I am very fortunate to have trained here at Mass General where many excellent clinicians served as my mentors. Even today when I face tough clinical situations, I can reach out to them for advice. One of the other benefits of practicing at Mass General is that I have been exposed to a wide breadth of clinical situations. Along with the advice from my mentors, these experiences have allowed me to be prepared and successful as a junior faculty member.
Dr. Samwel Ochieng: Learning from and listening to senior co-residents, attendings, and fellows has really helped me grow as a clinician. Everyone has a different perspective when it comes to managing cases, procedural techniques, etc. I am able to learn from each of these perspectives and integrate them into my day-to-day practice. I think the best thing about anesthesiology is that there isn’t necessarily one correct way to do things, so learning as much as I can from peers and seniors is particularly beneficial.
How would you describe the culture at Mass General?
Dr. Peter Ochieng: Family. I can count on my colleagues in times of need, and I know that they will have my back. As a junior faculty, whenever I want to discuss a clinical situation with another anesthesiologist, they are always willing to give me advice. The collegial culture that the OR staff has is like nothing I have ever seen before.
Dr. Samwel Ochieng: The working environment was very refreshing to come into as a first-year resident. All of our staff attendings are committed to the residents’ education and professional development. I am surprised by the approachability and humility of even the most senior anesthesiologists and surgeons that I work with daily. I was not sure about the cultural differences between the southwest where I grew up and the northeast, but everyone has been very warm and welcoming.
How do you approach your work at Mass General?
Dr. Peter Ochieng: I take care of every patient like they are my own relative. As an anesthesiologist, we are often meeting the patient for the first time on the day of their surgery or procedure. I make the most of this initial encounter by forming a connection. It is an honor and privilege to take care of patients, especially in their most vulnerable state, and that is something that I remind myself of every day.
Dr. Samwel Ochieng: Like most residents, I think Impostor Syndrome was a big thing for me to overcome. We take care of very sick and complicated patients at Mass General, and, at times, things can seem very daunting. I make it a point to take on complex cases as a resident while I still have the guidance of senior physicians every day. This has proved to be beneficial for my growth and confidence as a physician.
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