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Campus Life Education Students

Empathy Turns Anesthesiology Into Passion for December Graduate

Standout student finds reward in getting patients safely through surgery

Author Chris Casey | Publish Date November 23, 2020
What You Need To Know

Possessing a strong sense of empathy – as well as being an academic standout – pushed Fabienne Haas to the top of her Anesthesiologist Assistant program. Learn what drew her to anesthesiology, as well as how her journey took her from a small German village to the Colorado Front Range.

The inner workings of the human body fascinate Fabienne Haas. But also top of mind for Haas, who graduates from the University of Colorado Anesthesiologist Assistant Program in December, are the emotions swirling inside patients as they are about to undergo surgery.

Anesthesiologist Assistants (AA) are in the operating room every day assisting on one surgery after another, Haas said. “But for that specific patient, that’s a big day in their life,” she said. “It feels special to be able to be a part of that for them and to make them feel safe, that they’re well taken care of.”

Possessing a strong sense of empathy – as well as being an academic standout – pushed Haas to the top of her AA program. Haas, who grew up in Biengen, a small village in the vineyard country of southwestern Germany, “exhibited tremendous leadership and has excelled in the classroom and clinical setting,” said Ann-Michael Holland, CAA, MMSc, the AA program director.

A love of globetrotting

Having received the program’s Diversity Scholarship is apropos for Haas, who embraces diverse experiences at every turn. After high school, she worked as an English- and German-language teacher at a British international school in Beijing. That’s where she met her then-future husband, who hails from Colorado Springs.

The two moved to Colorado’s Front Range when their teaching contracts in China ended, and Haas enrolled at Pikes Peak Community College. She finished the last two years of her bachelor’s degree at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, graduating summa cum laude in biomedical sciences.

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Fabienne Haas, who grew up in a small village in southwestern Germany, loves the outdoors and feels right at home in Colorado.

“I love it here,” Haas said of Colorado, her second home. “The weather is amazing, and the people are super-nice. I’m an outdoorsy person, so I don’t think there’s a better place to be.”

Finding her niche

The serendipity Haas experienced in the Centennial State continued when she visited the CU Anschutz Medical Campus, where she knew she wanted to pursue post-graduate studies in healthcare. She hadn’t settled on a field, and medical school didn’t seem like quite the right fit. She looked into the Physician Assistant Program, “and just by accident I clicked on the Anesthesiologist Assistant Program (in the CU School of Medicine) and thought, ‘That sounds like a great fit.’’’

She shadowed an anesthesiologist assistant for a couple days and “loved it. It’s applied physiology ­– like solving a little human puzzle,” she said. “It’s nice because you can give medications and treat a patient. You help patients every day. You take their pain away, get them through surgery safely, and you get to play a really important part in someone’s life.”

Haas has loved everything about her 28-month CU Anschutz experience, underscoring the strong bond she formed with the 11 other students in her cohort and the supportive faculty. “They are just so committed to our learning and us improving clinically and always pushing us, always supporting us,” she said.

A refuge and an unlikely ‘roomie’

And in this era of COVID-19, when stress levels have surged for everyone, Haas has reveled in a bit of familial serendipity. After a long day of commuting from Colorado Springs followed by class or clinical rotations, Haas manages to find comfort in the big city.

“My husband’s grandma, who is a lovely lady (and lives in Denver), has been feeding me dinner every night I stay there,” she said. “Grandma Betty is great. I definitely call her my college roommate, and she loves it.”

Haas has a job lined up after graduation – at UCHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs.

Haas said her clinical rotation at Memorial in August and September “opened up a door” at the hospital. “I’m really looking forward to the experience (of working there),” she said. “They’re a Level One Trauma Center, so I think I’ll get good exposure to all kinds of cases to further improve my skills.”

But first she’ll make a trip back to Germany to visit her parents. This February will mark her eighth year of living in the States.

“I know there is still lots to learn after graduation,” Haas said of her first AA job, which is ideally located in her second home. “This is not the end.”