Desire to give back fuels support of Anesthesiology Residency Fund

For someone who considers himself more of a cynic than a philanthropist, Dr. Robert Tubben has no problem making an annual contribution to a fund that enhances the educational experience of residents in the Anesthesiology Residency Program at McLaren Greater Lansing. Nor is he shy about asking his fellow anesthesiologists – and a few other colleagues -- at the hospital to make gifts to it each year.

“It’s about doing the right thing,” he said. “I really believe that in order for our residents to be competitive out there, we need to do whatever we can to help. If this fund makes their lives a little bit easier, it’s worth it.”

Dr. Tubben spearheaded the creation of the Anesthesiology Residency Fund in 2015 and is one of several people who make contributions to it every year. The sixth-year director of the Residency Program appreciates “how hard” residents work and “how much” they do for the hospital, and says “the least we can do is make it easier for them when it comes to their educational costs.”

Although residents receive an educational stipend during each of their four years in the program, there are times when a desire to expand their knowledge leads to expenses exceeding their allotted spending amount.

These additional costs can include things such as testing fees required to take an accreditation exam beyond that which is required, expenses associated with out-rotations, or presentation funds for a guest lecturer.

Dr. Kenneth Elmassian, who has been working at McLaren Greater Lansing since 1988 when it was called Ingham Medical Center, knows educational costs can add up quickly. He makes annual contributions to the Anesthesiology Residency Fund because he “believes in medical education and training the next generation of anesthesiologists.”

He sees his younger self in many residents and fondly recalls the mentorship he received from veteran physicians when he was working toward becoming a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.).

“One of the things that makes medicine such a special field is you’re trying to help the next group of people going forward,” he said. “Giving back to the profession and helping them move ahead is important to me.”

Dr. Sucheta Ambekar is also a proponent for the next generation of anesthesiologists. She has been working at McLaren Greater Lansing since 2015 after a previous stint there from 1984-2005. She has made contributions to the Anesthesiology Residency Fund each year since its inception because “it’s nice to be able to give money to a fund that supports the education of residents.”

Like Dr. Elmassian, Dr. Ambekar has warm memories of her time as a resident. She also recalls the challenges she faced, and said her experience and those of her colleagues have contributed to a culture of “mutual respect” between anesthesiologists and residents at McLaren Greater Lansing.

“It’s a good relationship,” she said. “We want to see them flourish and do well. They really work hard and the fund is a way of helping them when it comes to their education.”

Dr. Dana Duren, who has worked for McLaren Greater Lansing for 24 years, has also contributed annually to the Anesthesiology Residency Fund. He said “it’s nice to be able to pay it forward” while reducing stress in residents’ lives.

“They’re trying to complete a lot of requirements,” he added. “If we can make that process a little less complicated, I’m all for it.”

Included in those requirements are eight month-long out-rotations to hospitals in west, southern, and southeastern Michigan during residents’ second year in the program. They also have the option of taking part in an out-rotation in a sub-specialty of their choice. Dr. Tubben believes working at different facilities gives residents an opportunity to learn more and gain greater experience than if they were stationed at the same hospital throughout the year.

“The first year they’re just kind of getting their feet wet,” he said. “The second year we send them out for their rotations and they come back so much smarter and more experienced than when they left. They’ve seen a lot and experienced a lot. A light goes on in their head and they’re a different resident.”

The Anesthesiology Residency Fund can also be used to help students attend the annual Midwest Anesthesia Residents Conference (MARC), where they interact with peers from institutions such as the Cleveland Clinic, Mayo Clinic, and the University of Michigan Health System, and make presentations about the research and scholarly activity in which they are involved.

“It’s been really good for our residents,” Dr. Tubben said. “They see what other residents are doing, and say, ‘You know what? I’m every bit as smart as someone from those programs, and I’m every bit as qualified.’ ”

If you would like to support the Anesthesiology Residency Fund, the Anesthesiology Residency Program, or another fund, program or department at the hospital, please call the McLaren Greater Lansing Foundation at 517.975.7100, email, or visit