Robert Augat, CRNA helps ease patients through surgery.

Healthcare was not Robert Augat’s first choice as a career. As a child, he grew up all over the world as he traveled with his missionary parents. He expected to follow in their footsteps and thought he would become a minister.

He spent his early 20’s leading teams of missionary relief workers to various places around the world. Once, while in a remote Nicaraguan village, there were two nuns who saw to the residents’ healthcare needs with the help of a doctor who came once a month. One day, when it seemed every woman in the town was giving birth, one of the nuns called out to Augat and told him to help the women. “How?” he asked. “Go under the dress and catch the baby,” he was told.

“I was an innocent 21-year-old,” Augat said. “Sure enough, a baby came out and I caught it. That put the healthcare bug in me.” At 28 he went to nursing school. His first job after graduation was in the Neurology ICU. He became friends with a neurosurgeon who would invite Augat to scrub in on interesting cases in the operating room. “While I enjoyed the surgeries themselves, I always found myself gravitating to the anesthesia machine,” he said. “I loved the technology and was fascinated by how much control the anesthetist had over the patient’s physiology. ICU nurses tend to be a bit of ‘control freaks’, which is why they are particularly well-suited for pursuing later careers in anesthesia.”

Augat added that he has “always been the type of person who gets very calm in a crisis. I’m more nervous when I’m bored. When things get stressful, my brain becomes calm,” noting similar traits in the anesthetists that he observed. After speaking with more nurse anesthetists, and learning about the more than 150 -year history of anesthesia care provided by nurse anesthetists, Augat was hooked.

In preparation, Augat worked an additional number of years in the Cardiothoracic Surgical ICU, after which he attended the Keck School of Medicine of USC for graduate studies in anesthesiology. He graduated in 2014 as a Board Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, a position he has held for six years.

At the beginning of June, Augat joined the staff at MCH. Prior to that, he was the Chief CRNA at East Los Angeles Doctors Hospital. When asked what prompted him to make the move from a large facility to a rural hospital, Augat said the decision was family-driven. He has two daughters, ages 6 and 9, and wanted to spend more time with them and his wife, Francie. “I found I had to work around the clock down in Los Angeles, and I was missing seeing my children grow up. I wanted a better work-life balance.”

At MCH, Augat provides anesthesia for surgeons, including Dr. Lawrence Walker and Dr. Van Martin, as well as sedation for Emergency Room procedures. “It’s very collaborative,” Augat said. “We always get together to discuss the patient’s care in order to ensure that the patient has the best possible experience that we can provide.”

In addition to administering anesthesia for elective and emergency surgical procedures, Augat performs pain management procedures, such as lumbar epidural steroid injections for patients with chronic back pain.

In his time as a Nurse Anesthetist, Augat had seen advances in both the technology and the drugs used. “The drugs have become so refined that anesthesia complications have become quite rare. Anesthesia used to be the most dangerous part of surgery,” he added. “Now it’s one of the safest medical specialties. These advances allow surgeons to perform surgery on sicker patients. Every day we are seeing older, sicker patients, who would have been considered ineligible before. People are coming in with more complex medical histories.”

While it has been a bit of a transition for Francie and the girls, Augat said they all love it up here. “It’s quieter than Los Angeles.” They all love the lake, where Augat enjoys fishing with the girls. “This kind of environment completely suits me,” he said. “I’ve always been an outdoors person. I have a passion for fishing. I’m on the lake every chance I get. I like fishing because it’s peaceful. It relaxes my brain. The girls love to fish with me. If I hook a fish, I let them help me reel it in.” For now, the family is renting a condo while they get settled. Eventually, they will look for a house to buy.

Augat said he has been “very impressed with the staff and the equipment at MCH. I have not worked in a place that has such well-maintained equipment and as much community support,” he said.

He added that MCH is “the first line of healthcare up here. People think it’s a short drive down the hill. But, in an emergency, you don’t have that time. Seconds count.”

He describes Dr. Martin as a “kindred spirit.” Their children are similar ages and their wives have become friends. “Dr. Martin is extremely dedicated to his patients. That is one reason I’ve bonded with him. I got into healthcare to really help people, a motivation that he shares. Dr. Martin has a very holistic, mature outlook toward his patients. He does not do the minimum.”

“The hunt for the right anesthesia person took almost a year. We wanted the right fit. We were focused on putting together a strong, cohesive team and Robert was the missing piece. We are thrilled to have him here!” said Debra Saddlemire, Surgery Manager.

About the MCH Surgery Department: MCH’s board-certified physicians, surgical nurses, and technicians provide exceptional, state-of-the-art surgical care right here in Lake Arrowhead. Our surgical suite consists of two operating rooms, which are fully equipped for a variety of surgical procedures in areas such as:

  • General Surgery

  • Orthopedics

  • Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT)

  • Podiatry

To learn more about our surgical services, please call Debra Saddlemire, Surgery Manager, at (909) 436-3111.