May 20, 2021

Medical student’s latest preoperative anxiety study receives accolades from American Association of Plastic Surgeons

Arif Musa

Medical student Arif Musa was honored with a scholarship to attend the American Association of Plastic Surgeons at the organization’s annual meeting, held May 15-18 in Miami, Fla.

Musa, a fourth-year student at the Wayne State University School in Medicine, was in Miami on a Cannon Student Scholarship to attend the meeting  in recognition of his study “A survey of current preferences of plastic surgeons regarding assessment and reduction of preoperative anxiety.

The scholarship included registration, meals and accommodations for the meeting.

School of Medicine students Jahan Tajran, Class of 2021; and Daniel Chen, Ricardo Engel and Madison Wheaton, Class of 2022, contributed to the study, published by the journal Aesthetic Plastic Surgery in February. Musa presented a related abstract at the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery’s annual scientific meeting in February.

Preoperative anxiety is a common phenomenon in plastic surgery that has been associated with numerous negative patient outcomes. Musa and classmates wanted to determine the preferences of plastic surgeons regarding the assessment and reduction of adult preoperative patient anxiety in their primary practice setting. They surveyed members of the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons from April to June of 2020. The majority of respondents – 63% -- did not formally assess patient anxiety, but 57% supported the use of standardized scales to measure anxiety. Most of those surveyed preferred patient education (81%), family member presence (69%) and a visit from the anesthesiologist (54%) to reduce patient anxiety.

Although plastic surgeons appeared to hold multiple parties responsible to manage preoperative anxiety, they held themselves and anesthesiologists most responsible, the study said. Future studies are needed to determine if these views cohere with those of other health care providers and if these preferences change for pediatric patients.

The survey is the latest in a series of studies led by Musa that question physicians in various specialties about patient pre-operative anxiety. He founded the Spine Preoperative Anxiety Research Taskforce, or SPARTA, in 2016 while attending the University of Southern California as a graduate student.

“These anxieties often go unaddressed or unrecognized by providers. Not only is there research that shows that high anxiety before surgery can lead to negative outcomes for the patient, but I believe that addressing patient anxiety is necessary for both patient-centered and evidence-based care,” Musa said. “Because our first study investigated preoperative anxiety in spine surgery, I named our team of multi-disciplinary researchers the Spine Preoperative Anxiety Research Taskforce, or SPARTA. However, since then, our study has expanded to the specialties of Anesthesiology, Plastic Surgery, Orthopedic Surgery, Dermatology and Gastroenterology, with future expansions being discussed in the fields of Ophthalmology and Urology.

The project was funded by the Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute Team Building Award, won by Musa in 2018 from the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine and renewed in 2019 and 2020, and the Medical Student Research Fellowship awarded by the WSU School of Medicine’s Office of Research and Innovation in 2020.

Musa’s faculty advisor is Christopher Cooke, M.D., an attending orthopedic surgeon at the Detroit Medical Center who was recently named a 2020 Top Doctor by Hour Detroit.

Even the earlier phases of the project were met with positive feedback.

“Ultimately, I think our project was so successful because I identified a problem that was not being adequately addressed – patient anxiety before surgery – and conducted research to identify the most popular strategies to reduce anxiety in patients that clinicians can use in their everyday practice. I realized that to be a humanistic physician I must always account for my patient’s feelings and well-being, especially before surgery,” he said.

Musa was inducted into the Gold Humanism Honor Society this year, and serves as the School of Medicine chapter’s treasurer.

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