Physician Spotlight: Tiffany Brainerd

Tiffany Brainerd, MD, a pediatric anesthesiologist, has joined Vanderbilt University Medical Center. She is a former Harvard faculty and now shares time between VUMC and Colorado, where she pursues mountain rescue.

Brainerd’s clinical interests include international education and ultrasound technology, including regional nerve blocks, point-of-care, and austere applications.

Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology Warren Sandberg, MD, PhD, said it is an honor to have someone of Brainerd’s diverse background at VUMC. “Her skill not only as an anesthesiologist but as someone who practices wilderness medicine, makes her an invaluable member to our department. Combining these two specialties adds to diversity of orientation and thought in our department, and contributes to our drive towards diversity on all axes.”

Brainerd said she hopes to bring more evidence-based practice to wilderness medicine by contributing to research while at VUMC. “Due to a number of understandable factors, many austere medicine practices are lacking in science. I aim to contribute to our body of knowledge in the field.”

 Brainerd said her greatest challenges involve the implementation of various unique skill sets. Along with anatomy and physiology, developed through the practice of anesthesiology, she must link technical mountain travel and mountain medicine, including high altitude physiology, high angle rope rescue, avalanche rescue, and more. 

“To put these skills into practice, I am expected to maintain proficiency in wilderness travel via backcountry skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, and technical glacier travel,” she said.

Her skills are useful in difficult environments other than mountains. She said she is proud of the work she has done in eight countries, including Haiti following the 2010 earthquake and COVID-19 ICU work in a community with the fourth highest per-capita COVID-19 mortality in the world.

Brainerd is a member of the Wilderness Medical Society, including the Women in Wilderness Medicine Committee, the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia, including the SPA Global Committee, and the American Society of Anesthesiologists. She sits on the Hicks Honors College Dean’s Council for the University of North Florida, is a foster volunteer with the La Plata County Humane Society, and provides medical direction and other services for the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup Series. She holds a Diploma in Mountain Medicine, is a fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine, and was recently named Medical Director for La Plata County Search and Rescue.