History of the Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia

In the 1970’s the need for highly trained nurse anesthetists was a growing concern in southern California. Joyce Kelly Ed D., CRNA and other visionaries at Kaiser Permanente took action and established the Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia (KPSA). In 1972, Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia opened with its first cohort of 10 students; Joyce Kelly Ed.D., CRNA was the director and Dr. Robert Venrose, M.D. was the anesthesiologist medical advisor.

Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia affiliated with California State University Long Beach in 1978. This was the first master’s level degree, Master of Science in Nursing with a clinical specialty of nurse anesthesiology, awarded in the United States.

The 1980’s was a decade of recognition and new partnerships. Dr. Joyce Kelly, Ed. D., CRNA was the recipient of the AANA Helen Lamb Outstanding Educator Award by Helen Lamb, CRNA in 1980. In 1983, Dr. Carol Franklin, M.D. became the second medical advisor for KPSA. Dr. Kelly and Dr. Franklin were instrumental in forging our first affiliate clinical site with the U.S. Naval Hospital in San Diego, California in 1988. This affiliate partnership spawned the development of other affiliate partnerships which continue today.

The next 25 years was an era of change for KPSA. Dr. Jack Goldin, M.D. became the anesthesiologist medical advisor from 1995-1997; Dr. Christine Whitten, M.D., was the medical advisor from 1997-2002. Dr. Joyce Kelly was honored as the second recipient of the Program Director of the Year Award by the AANA in 1993. She subsequently retired in 1996; Dr. John Nagelhout Ph. D., CRNA was her successor and continues to lead KPSA today as the director.

Another transition that occurred with KPSA was its partnership with California State University. In 2000, KPSA changed its university affiliation from California State University Long Beach to California State University Fullerton. This collegial partnership has flourished throughout the years and continues presently. There was also a medical advisor change in 2002 with Dr. Michael Ward, M.D. In addition, several awards were presented to our director emeritus and current director. Dr. Joyce Kelly was honored by the AANA with the Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment and Dr. John Nagelhout, Ph.D. was honored as the Program Director of the Year by the AANA.

The curriculum at KPSA also continued to transform during the 21st century with the creation of the Simulation Lab in 2006. Since its development, the Simulation Lab has been an integral part of the curriculum and is supplied with state-of-the-art equipment. Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia was also proud to become affiliated with the Braille Institute in 2005. This is, yet, another partnership that continues to exist with KPSA.

Medical advisement underwent several transitions. From 2008-2013 Dr. Thelma Korpman, M.D., MBA was the medical advisor for KPSA. Thereafter, Dr. Alex Chin, M.D took over the position and remains the medical advisor.

Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia was proudly awarded a 10 year accreditation via the Council on Accreditation on Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs in 2007. This accreditation affirms the high quality of education that the students are receiving.

The outstanding education that Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia offers was an impetus for the Kaiser Permanente Anesthesia Technologist program. In 2010, Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia, in conjunction with Pasadena City College, accepted their first anesthesia technician class. The program is the first Associate degree anesthesia technician program in the country. Its first Anesthesia technician class graduated in 2011.

Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia is committed to lifelong learning and, in 2012, supported the Southern California Doctor of Nursing Practice Consortium (California State University Fullerton, California State University Long Beach, and California State University Los Angeles) with offering the post-master's Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. Its first cohort graduated in 2014. In fall 2018, the KPSA program instituted the 3-year entry into practice BSN-DNP, graduating its first class in 2021.

The Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia prides itself in its success throughout the years through strategic partnerships.

  • The school’s faculty partners with physicians, chiefs, and various committee chairs to provide strong program leadership.
  • Anesthesiologists and CRNAs partner in the clinical setting to ensure the highest quality care for patients.
  • Students and faculty partner with community hospitals to provide clinical rotations with best exposure to varied cases and settings.
  • We also partner with other schools of anesthesia in providing education.

The results are synergistic partnerships that foster an excellent working environment for the staff, as well as an exceptional level of healthcare for the community.

Kaiser Permanente School of Anesthesia has become the leader in nurse anesthesia education. We are an established anesthesia program who is proud to have graduated highly educated, highly trained, highly skilled and highly professional certified registered nurse anesthetists.