Beverley Orser, MD, PhD, FRCPC

Steering Committee, Member Scientific Advisory Board, Member
Beverley Orser, MD, PhD, FRCPC

Beverley Orser, MD, PhD, FRCPC

University of Toronto

Scientific Profile

Areas of Specialty: Dr. Orser is Professor of Anesthesia and Physiology at the University of Toronto, a clinician-scientist and a practicing anesthesiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences. Her research focuses on the mechanism underlying general anesthesia.

Clinical Care and Research Activities: Dr. Orser is the Director of Research Sunnybrook Health Science Centre. She also directs a preclinical research team and graduate student program that is supported by Canadian Institutes of Health Research. The goal of the research is to understand the molecular mechanisms that underlie the desired and adverse effects of general anesthetics. Her clinical studies focus on simple but effective ways to improve patient safety in the operating room. She co-founded the Institute for Safe Medication Practices Canada, the first Canadian reporting system for medication errors and the Patient Safety Committee of the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society. She also chaired the Canadian Standards Association Subcommittee on the Labeling and Packaging of Drugs and helped to develop a tool that can be used to assess drug hazards in the operating room. Her recent efforts have been directed to the implementation of safety checklists for patients undergoing surgery.

Professional Affiliations

  • Canada Research Chair in Anesthesia
  • International Anesthesia Research Society
  • The Institute for Safe Medication Practices

International Anesthesia Research Society

Board of Trustees, Member
Central Meeting Planning Committee
Abstract Submission and Presentation Committee


Steering Committee, Member
Scientific Advisory Board, Member
Pre-clinical Group, Member

University of Toronto

Professor of Physiology and Anesthesia, University of Toronto
Staff Anesthesiologist, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Director of Research, Department of Anesthesia, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre
Canada Research Chair in Anesthesia (2004-2014)


Institute of Medical Science, University of Toronto – PhD (1995)
University of Toronto – FRCPC (1986)
Queen’s University Medical School – MD (1981)

Honors and Achievements

  • 2015 CAS Canadian Journal of Anesthesia Research Award
  • 2014 Mary Burnell Medal and Memorial Lecture: Keynote address: Understanding memory loss after anesthesia: Australian and New Zealand Colleges of Anesthetists and Surgeons, Singapore
  • 2013 2013 Aiken Lecturer: Neuroscience Group, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario Canada
  • 2013 2013 Plenary Address: Association of University Anesthesiologists, Miami, Florida, USA
  • 2013 25thR. Stephen Lecturer: School of Medicine, Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, Missouri, USA
  • 2012 Elected Fellow: Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (Canadian equivalent of Institute of Medicine of the National Academies)
  • 2012 16th Annual James E. Eckenhoff Lecturer: Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Pennsylvania, USA
  • 2011 Keynote Lecture, World Anesthesia Day: University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada
  • 2011 Royal College Lecturer: Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society
  • 2010 Guest Lecturer and Judge, Academic Evening: University of Washington, Department of Anesthesiology and Pain, Seattle, Washington State, USA
  • 2010 Keynote Lecturer: Memory MAC and Mechanisms of Anesthesia, Pinnacle Partners in Medicine, Dallas, Texas, USA
  • 2009 OXION Lecturer: Oxford University, Oxford, England
  • 2009 : Keynote address: Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain & Ireland
  • 2008 : Keynote address: Washington State Society of Anesthesiologists and British Columbia Anesthesiologists’ Society Scientific Meeting
  • 2008 : Chair, Advisory Board for Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award, International Anesthesia Research Society
  • 2008 : Mendelson Lecture, Department of Anesthesia, University of Toronto
  • 2007 : Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada Lecturer, Queen’s University, Department of Anesthesiology
  • 2007 : Research profiled in Scientific American, June issue
  • 2006 : Research Recognition Award, Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society
  • 2004 : Faculty of 1000 Medicine (Anesthesiology & Pain Management,
  • 2003 : Canada Research Chair in Anesthesia, Tier 2: Anesthetic Drugs: From Molecular Mechanisms to Patient Safety
  • 2003 : Roger S. Brett Memorial Lecturer, Dept of Anesthesia, Stony Brook University
  • 2003 : Harold Griffith Lecturer, Department of Anesthesia, McGill University
  • 2002 : Alberta Heritage Foundation Lecturer, Neuroscience Research Group, University of Calgary
  • 2002 : Recognition Award, Institute for Safe Medication Practices (United States) “For efforts to improve drug safety around the world”
  • 2002-03 : Premier’s Research Excellence Award (Ontario)
  • 2000-05 : Career Scientist Award (Renewal), Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • 1999 : Selected for Canadian ‘Who’s Who” published by University of Toronto Press
  • 1996 : Elected to Association of University Anesthesiologists
  • 1995-2000 : Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award, The International Anesthesia Research Society
  • 1995-2000 : Career Scientist Award, Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care
  • 1992-94 : Medical Research Council of Canada Fellowship (Renewal)
  • 1991 : Laidlaw Research Award, Honourable Mention
  • 1990-92 : Medical Research Council of Canada Fellowship
  • 1990 : Research Award, Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society
  • 1989 : Tisdale Research Competitor, Hospital for Sick Children
  • 1988-90 : Parker B. Francis Fellowship
  • 1988 : Restacom Award, Research Institute, Hospital for Sick Children

Selected Publications

Rappaport BA, Santhanam S, Hertz S, Evers AS,Orser BA. (2015). Anesthetic Neurotoxicity- Clinical Implications of Animal Models. N Engl J Med. 372: 796-797.

McBain CJ, Kittler J, Luscher B, Mody I, Orser BA (2015) GABAergic signaling in health and disease. Neuropharmacology. 88: 1-209.

Zurek AA, Yu J, Wang DS, Haffey SC, Bridgwater EM, Penna A, Lecker I, Lei G, Chang T, Salter EWR, Orser BA (2014) Sustained increase in α5GABAA receptor function impairs memory after anesthesia. J Clin Invest. 124: 5437-41.

Whissel PD, Lecker I, Wang DS, Orser BA (2014) Altered Expression of δGABAA Receptors in Health and Disease. Neuropharmacology. 88C: 24-35.

Mesbah-Oskui L, Orser BA, Horner R. (2014) Thalamic δ-subunit containing GABAA receptors promote electrocortical signatures of deep non-REM sleep but do not mediate the effects of etomidate at the thalamus in-vivo. J Neurosci. Vol. 34(37): 12253-66.

Penna A, Wang DS, Yu J, Lecker I, Brown P, Bowie D, Orser BA. (2014) Hydrogen peroxide increases GABAAreceptor-mediated tonic current in hippocampal neurons. J Neurosci. Vol. 34 (32): 10624-34.

Diaz MR, Vollmer CC, Zamudio-Bulcock PA, Vollmer W, Blomquist SL, Morton RA, Everett JC, Zurek AA, Yu J, Orser BA, Valenzuela CF. (2014) Repeated intermittent alcohol exposure during the third trimester-equivalent increases expression of the GABAA receptor δ subunit in cerebellar granule neurons and delays motor development in rats. Neuropharmacology. Vol 79C:262-274.

Whissell PD, Eng D, Lecker I, Martin LJ, Wang DS, Orser BA. (2013) Acutely increasing delta-GABAA receptor activity impairs memory and inhibits synaptic plasticity in the hippocampus. Front Neural Circuits. Vol.17; 7: 146. SRA

Jevtovic-Todorovic V, Absalom AR, Blomgren K, Brambrink A, Crosby G, Culley DJ, Fiskrum G, Giffard RG, Herold KF, Loepke AW, Ma D, Orser BA (2013) Planel E, Slikker W Jr, Soriano SG, Stratmann G, Vutskits L, Xie Z, Hemmings HC Jr. Anathestic neurotoxicity and neuroplasticity: an expert group report and statment based on the BJA Salzburg Seminar. Br J Anaesth. Vol. 111(2): 143-51.

Whissell PD, Rosenzweig S, Lecker I, Wang D, Wojtowicz JM, Orser BA. (2013) GABAA receptors promote memory and neurogenesis in the dentate gyrus. Annals of Neurology. Ann Neurol. doi: 10.1002/ana.23941.

Orser BA. (2008) Depth-of-anesthesia monitor and the frequency of intraoperative awareness. N Engl J Med 358(11):1189-91. (Invited Editorial)

Orser BA. (2007) Lifting the fog around anesthesia. Scientific American 296(6):54-61.

Xiang Y-Y, Wang S, Ju W, Liu M, Li J, Fan Y, Ye B, Orser BA, Yang X, Lu W-Y. (2007) An Essential Role for a Novel Pulmonary GABAergic System in Airway Epithelial Hyperplasia and Mucus Overproduction in Allergic Asthma. Nature Medicine, 13(7):862-7.

Bonin RP, Martin LJ, MacDonald JF, Orser BA (2007) a5GABAA receptors regulate the intrinsic excitability of mouse hippocampal pyramidal neurons. J Neurophysiol 98(4):2244-54.

Cheng VY, Mary W. Chiu, Newell G, MacDonald JF, Bhambri A, Collinson N, Wafford KA, Orser BA (2006) Gabapentin (Neurontin) enhances a tonic inhibitory conductance generated by GABAA receptors in hippocampal neurons. 105(2):325-33.

Cheng VY, Martin LJ, Elliott EM, Kim JH, Mount HTJ, Taverna FA, Roder JC,MacDonald JF, Bhambri A, Collinson N, Wafford KA, Orser BA (2006) a5GABAA receptors mediate the amnestic but not sedative-hypnotic effects of the general anesthetic etomidate. J Neurosci 26:3713-3720.

Caraiscos VB, Elliott EM, You-Ten KE, Cheng VY, Belelli D, Newell JG, Jackson MF, Lambert JJ, Rosahl TW, Wafford KA, MacDonald JF, Orser BA. (2004) Tonic inhibition in mouse hippocampal CA1 pyramidal neurons is mediated by a5 subunit-containing gamma aminobutyric acid type A receptors. Proc Nat Acad Sci U S A 101(10):3662-7.

Caraiscos VB, Newell JG, You-Ten KE, Elliott EM, Rosahl TW, Wafford KA, MacDonald JF, Orser BA. (2004) Selective enhancement of tonic GABAergic inhibition in murine hippocampal neurons by low concentrations of the volatile anesthetic isoflurane. J Neurosci 24(39):8454-8.

Yeung JYT, Canning K, Zhu G, Pennefather P, MacDonald JF, Orser BA (2003) Tonically activated GABAA receptors in hippocampal neurons are high affinity, low conductance sensors for extracellular GABA. Mol Pharmacol 63:2-8.

Bai D, MacDonald JF, Orser BA. (2001) Distinct functional and pharmacological properties of tonic and quantal inhibitory postsynaptic currents mediated by GABAA receptors in hippocampal neurons. Mol Pharm 2001; 59: 814-824. SRA, PA