Dr. Bala Arul V Krishnan on How to Become an Anesthesiologist – A Roadmap



Anyone who has ever suffered from chronic pain, the excruciating discomfort of labor contractions, or undergone an invasive procedure, understands the necessity of anesthesia. Anesthesiologists are the physicians who deliver pain-relieving medication best described as a powerful drug-induced coma. They also sedate patients intravenously to numb a certain part of the body and prevent pain signals from travelling to the brain.

However, anesthesiologists do much more than ease patients into a deep sleep or state of relaxation. They work alongside surgeons and other doctors to develop treatment plans for patients before, during, and after a surgical procedure. Anesthesiologists are responsible for checking patients’ vital signs, monitoring the depth of anesthesia, executing necessary modifications, intervening during life-threatening crises, and ensuring the overall safety of patients while under anesthesia.

Dr. Bala Arul V is a respected Anesthesiology Specialist in Portland, Oregon. After graduating from Medical School in New York, he completed a vigorous training program at the University of Washington and has more than twelve years of experience in his field. Dr. Krishnan has worked at numerous other hospitals throughout the state of Oregon where he collaborates with several other physicians and anesthesiologists. He is a proud graduate of New York Medical College and has more than twelve years of experience in his field.

According to Dr. Krishnan, anesthesiologists must possess strong communication, attention to detail, problem-solving skills, and patience. Before one can become a fully certified anesthesiologist, individuals must undergo demanding educational requirements, state licensing, and complete years of training. Dr. Krishnan shares the steps one must take to become an anesthesiologist in the United States.


Earn a Bachelor’s Degree


Students that aspire to be anesthesiologists must complete an undergraduate degree in a related field of science before being able to apply to medical school. While students are not required to specialize in any particular area, Dr. Krishnan advises that most medical schools favor graduates with a four-year degree in natural sciences, including courses in biology, anatomy, organic and inorganic chemistry, and physics. Typical med school requirements include an undergraduate GPA of at least 3.0, good TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) scores, letters of recommendation, evidence of extracurricular activities, and a minimum result on your MCAT exam. Additionally, some med schools also require the completion of specific premedical courses to be eligible for admittance.


Take the MCAT


To be accepted into a medical school, individuals must pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The MCAT is a standardized multiple-choice exam that tests students on prerequisite skills that are essential to achieving high performance in medical school. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), this test has been an integral part of the medical school admissions process for over 90 years, with more than 85,000 individuals sitting for the exam each year.

As the test’s creators, the AAMC’s website identifies the four major sections that comprise the exam including, critical analysis and reasoning skills, biological and biochemical foundations of living systems, chemical and physical foundations of biological systems, as well as psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior. The exam is administered several times each year from January through till September, with testing locations across the United States. Dr. Krishnan recommends only taking the test when you feel confident and fully prepared, as there are limits to the number of times you can retake it. To optimize your chances of success, the AAMC offers a variety of test preparation tools that are available at little or no cost.


Complete Medical School


The next step to becoming an anesthesiologist is attending four years of medical school. Medical school is typically divided into two-year blocks. During years one and two, or the ‘preclinical years,’ students engross themselves in textbooks, lectures, and exams. Students attend classes that build on their current knowledge of the natural sciences, including biochemistry, microbiology, neuroscience, pathology, pharmacology, immunology, and behavioral science.

Students also experience conducting examinations and interviews for the first time. Years three and four, or the ‘clinical years’ involve donning a white coat and interning at a local hospital. Students usually partake in 1-3 month clinical rotations where they receive real-life experience working in various fields of medicine. Under the supervision of physicians and residents, students help to diagnose and develop treatments for patients. Dr. Krishnan suggests taking electives in anesthesiology during your third and fourth year to help prepare you for your residency.


Residency & Fellowship


Following the completion of a medical degree, graduates must undergo a comprehensive four-year residency. During the first year, also known as the ‘clinical base year,’ interns are rotated throughout the hospital and gain hands-on experience in critical care medicine, neurology, pediatrics, surgery, emergency care, internal medicine, obstetrics, and anesthesia. The subsequent three years are devoted to demanding clinical anesthesia (CA) training where students have now earned the title ‘resident.’ Residents face higher expectations and increased responsibilities from their superiors, as they get closer to becoming a fully-fledged anesthesiologist.

During the first year of CA training, residents are provided with basic knowledge regarding anesthesia. The following year, residents are given exposure to anesthesia subspecialties as they do rotations in areas like cardiac anesthesia and pediatric anesthesia. The final year of residency builds upon the various subspecialties and residents should feel comfortable working within their particular areas of interest. According to the Yale School of Medicine, trainees are involved in roughly 400 anesthetics each year of their CA training. Finally, while fellowship programs are not mandatory, some individuals may decide to spend an extra year delving deeper into a specific area of anesthesiology.


State Licensing & Board Certification


To be able to practice medicine in the United States, physicians must obtain a license and any additional requirements dictated by their State. While students are still enrolled in medical school, they should be actively preparing to take the United States Medical Licensing Exam (USMLE). The test is divided into three sections and evaluates students’ understanding of medical principles. Students can take the first two parts of the exam while in medical school but must wait to complete part three after successfully earning their medical degree. Moreover, while it isn’t mandatory, Dr. Krishnan insists that employers favour anesthesiologists that are Board Certified. Physicians can attain board certification through The American Board of Anesthesiology (ABA) and the American Board of Physician Specialties (ABPS).




The demanding nature of medical school and residency programs requires persistence and hard work. Dr. Krishnan emphasizes that working in the medical field can provide individuals with many opportunities, such as a rewarding career that is focused on putting others first. If you are interested in pursuing a career in anesthesiology and want to know more, you can find additional resources through the AAMC website, including helpful tips for succeeding in medical school.


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