Beverley Orser

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
2075 Bayview Avenue, Room M3200, Toronto, Ontario Canada M4N 3M5
Research Interests
Clinical Interests
neuroanesthesia, perioperative patient management
contact faculty member for more information

Dr. Orser is the Professor and Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology & Pain Medicine, Temerty Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto and the Chair of the Board of the International Anesthesia Research Society. She is also a practicing anesthesiologist at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, Canada. Her clinical studies and advocacy work focus on patient safety and the anesthesia workforce in Canada. She has co-founded several patient safety organizations, including ISMP Canada (, the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society Quality & Patient Safety Committee, and the Perioperative Brain Health Centre ( Her preclinical research has offered fundamental insights into the molecular basis of anesthesia, including the longer-term effects of exposure to anesthetic drugs. Her laboratory first demonstrated the unique pharmacological properties of extrasynaptic GABAA receptors and identified novel roles for these receptors in health and disease. Her advocacy work has improved patient care and her discoveries have led to patents and potential new treatments.

Dr. Orser’s contributions have been recognized by numerous awards including the Award for Excellence in Research from the American Society of Anesthesiologists (2018), one of the highest honours in anesthesia. She received the Gold Medal from the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society (2017) and the Peter Dresel Award in Pharmacology from Dalhousie University (2017). She received the first Canada Research Chair awarded to an anesthesiologist (2003), the first Frontiers in Anesthesia Research Award from the International Anesthesia Research Society (1995) and awards from the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (2014) and the Association of Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland (2009). She is a Fellow of the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences (2013), a Fellow of The Royal Society of Canada (2018), and a Senior Fellow of Massy College, University of Toronto (2020). She is one of a few Canadians elected as an International Member of the United States National Academy of Medicine (2018). In 2023, the World Federation of Societies of Anaesthesiologists recognized her as a leading female pioneer and innovator in the field. Dr. Orser was honoured with the Order of Ontario (2022), the highest civilian recognition conferred by the province of Ontario.

Dr. Orser received a Medical Doctorate from Queen’s University (1981), a Fellowship from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (1987), and a PhD in medical science from the University of Toronto (1995). She completed postgraduate clinical training at the Royal Columbian Hospital in British Columbia, McMaster University, the University of Oxford, and the University of Toronto.

Research Synopsis

The discovery of anesthesia ranks as one of the top discoveries in the history of medicine, yet the molecular basis of how these drugs work have eluded scientists for centuries. For over 20 years, Dr. Orser has directed a research laboratory that has made seminal contributions to our understanding of how general anesthetics modify brain function. Her laboratory uses genetic mouse models together with behavioral studies, electrophysiology and biochemical assays to gain a precise understanding of how and where anesthetics act in the central nervous system. Results from her studies have substantially advanced the long-term goal of targeting specific receptors to gain a selective, safer and more effective approach to anesthesia. In addition, Dr. Orser works with nonprofit organizations and government agencies to improve safety for the 234 million patients who undergo anesthesia and surgery each year.

Recent Publications

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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. SRA, CPA
  4. 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.
  5. Orser BA, Hyland S, UD, Sheppard I, Wilson CR. (2013) Review Article: Improving Drug Safety for Patients Undergoing Anesthesia and Surgery. Can J Anaesth. Vol. 60(2): 127-135. (Invited Review)
  6. Lecker I, Wang DS, Romaschin AD, Peterson M, Mazer CD, Orser BA. (2012) Tranexamic Acid Concentrations Associated with Human Seizures Inhibit Glycine Receptors. J Clin Invest. Vol. 122(12): 4654-66. Report highlighted by Nature Medicine, Jan 2103.
  7. Wang DS, Zurek AA, Lecker I, Yu J, Abramian AM, Avramescu S, Davies PA, Moss SJ, Lu WY, Orser BA. (2012) Memory Deficits Induced by Inflammation Are Regulated by α5-subunit-containing GABAA Receptors. Cell Rep. Vol. 2(3): 488-96. 


Director of Research, Department of Anesthesia, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
Chair, Board of Trustees International Anesthesia Research Society
Board of Directors ISMP-Canada
CIHR College of Reviewers
Scientific Advisory Board and Steering Committee SmartTots (

Honours and Awards

Name: Order of Ontario
Description: 2022

Name: Canada Research Chair


Name: Leader’s Opportunity Fund


Name: Fellowship in the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences
Name: Elected Member, Association of University Anesthesiologists
Name: Elected member, Board of Trustees International Anesthesia Research Society
Name: CAS Research Recognition Award
Name: Institute for Safe Medication Practices “Cheers” Recognition Award