Anesthesia services in Tucson prior to the 1980’s was somewhat representative of the ‘wild west’; dozens of independent practitioners competed with each other for lucrative cases, with surgeons having to search for an anesthesiologist willing to provide care to a patient with less lucrative insurance. Loose associations and small groups formed frequently and dissolved just as frequently. The groups that did form were generally very hierarchical, with no track to partnership or ill-defined terms and closed books. Both call coverage and daytime coverage were spotty and varied with the vagaries of the groups that existed ‘at the moment’.
In early 1985 a small group of visionary physicians met and started discussions on the ‘ideal anesthesia group’ and how it would be better able to respond to challenges of a changing market. With the invaluable experience gathered by these numerous physicians over many years in various practice modalities, the members of the newly forming group envisioned and drafted a model of how an ideal anesthesia group should be organized. They based their model on principles of democracy and fairness, with an equal vote for each partner, ‘insurance blindness’ (caring for any patient without regard to insurance), professional management, transparency, and a commitment to the highest standards of safety and quality.
SAA was incorporated as a Professional Corporation on April 29, 1985. The message and model of the founders’ vision resonated strongly in the anesthesia community, and within two years the group had tripled in size. Within five years SAA had grown to become one of the largest anesthesiology groups in the country. With a firm commitment to fairness to its employees and flexibility in the healthcare marketplace, SAA began to develop a national reputation. Organizational constructs pioneered by SAA have been copied throughout the country.
Throughout the years, SAA has never lost sight of its founding principles. Quality, fairness, flexibility, effective and efficient business practices, and strong physician leadership have been guiding principles that have allowed SAA to thrive and prosper. These same principles have also attracted the ‘best and brightest’ anesthesiologists and CRNAs, and SAA has had remarkable success recruiting new physicians and CRNAs from the top training programs in the country, as well as attracting experienced clinicians from leadership positions in other major groups or academic centers.