Meet Abdi Ahari, MD, general surgeon, and discover more about the medical community and the surgery capabilities close to home at MercyOne North Iowa and the Mason City Clinic.
When it comes to surgery, it’s important not to let the term “general” fool you. There are six general surgeons at the Mason City Clinic who do a wide range of general surgery from removing colon, breast and thyroid cancer to vascular surgery as well as weight loss surgery. They are also often times the surgeons in the ER if you are in an accident with a broken bone or something more serious. They work as a team and patients benefit from their collaborative approach.
In this podcast, you learn about the wide ranging capabilities of the general surgeons at the Mason City Clinic, their team approach to patients and the importance they place on educating patients before surgery about what to expect and how best to recover for overall better outcomes.
Welcome to Mason City, Docs on Call, a podcast series with North Iowa specialists who educate us about how to stay healthy. I’m your host, Carol Gifford. Today’s topic is general surgery. At some point in many of our lives we need surgery, maybe in response to a traumatic event, like a car or bike accident, or to remove breast or colon cancer. In Mason City there’s a team of board-certified general surgeons who perform a wide range of emergent as well as elective surgeries. Here to help us understand the full capabilities of our general surgical team at the Mason City Clinic is board- certified general surgeon, Dr. Abdi Ahari. So, welcome to the program, Dr. Ahari.
Thanks for having me.
Define general surgery for us. Like who are your patients and what kind of surgeries do you perform?
Well, thanks for asking that question. Recently, when I’ve been out and about in the community, working out at the Y and such, when the question arises, what do you do? I say I’m a general surgeon and since I’ve dedicated my life to it, I think that, well, everybody should know what a general surgeon does, but I’ve noticed that a lot of people just don’t know what we do. So, today, instead of talking about individual topics in regards to what we take care of, I’d like to just give a more broad overview of what a general surgeon does, what our team does here in Mason City and how we integrate our care with other specialties.
Okay. So, about one-third of what a general surgeon does is acute, which means that we respond to calls in the emergency room, and it could be related to trauma, car accident, fall from a ladder, a bicycle accident, or even farm injuries and penetrating trauma. So, if you’ve got severe injuries in one of those categories, you’re likely to see us, and if you need admission for observation, it’s usually going to be us. Then we consult other subspecialists as needed, and occasionally you’ll need surgery, and that would again be one of us. Additionally, in the emergency room, we see patients with what we call general surgical problems, and those are usually related to abdominal issues, abdominal pain, which could be related to an acute inflamed gall bladder, an inflamed appendix, a bowel obstruction or colon problems such as diverticulitis, and it could occasionally be perforated ulcer as well.
So, all those things, we see the patients in the emergency room and handle them emergently. We, as general surgeons are on call 24/7 for MercyOne North Iowa, which covers the entire 14 counties. We also have a backup surgeon as well. So, basically, you know that there are two general surgeons available, both to help you out if you have general surgical problems in this area. The second part of our practice is more the elective practice, and we see patients in our clinics, and going from head to toe, we see patients with thyroid problems, either an overactive thyroid or thyroid cancer. If surgery is required, then we have the expertise to do that. One of our surgeons is an excellent surgeon when it comes to parathyroid surgery, and then going down, we take care of a significant amount of breast cancer, which is unfortunately, quite common.
Other cancers include colon cancer, which we take care of, and different types of skin cancers, particularly melanomas that we take care of. Then non-cancer related general surgical problems are all kinds of hernias that we take care of. We also take care of gallbladder problems, as I mentioned before. When it’s not an acute situation, we can schedule that electively. We also take care of a lot of anorectal disease, like hemorrhoidal problems. We have an open door policy, which means that if you feel that you want to talk to a surgeon, you don’t have to go through a primary care provider. You can just call our office and make an appointment.
Yeah. But most our appointments are-
Through a primary care physician.
Through a primary care physician.
Yeah, referral. Okay.
There’s how many general surgeons here at Mason City? Is it six or seven?
Currently we have six general surgeons, and we all do a wide range of general surgery, and we have particular niche interests as well. So, Dr. Rowe does general surgery, and he does vascular surgery. Then Dr. Splittgerber and I, we do a wide range of general surgery, and also Dr. Jayawardena, who does a wide range of general surgery. We do both open and minimally invasive types of surgery. Dr. Jayawardena has a particular interest in robotic surgery. Now, two of our general surgeons have a particular interest in bariatric surgery for weight loss surgery, and also surgical management of acid reflux disease. I believe that they are going to have a talk themselves about exactly what they do, but we got a broad range of disease processes that we manage. We work really well as a team, and we’ve all got our offices next to each other, and we run patients by each. So, I think we’re, we’ve got a really a good, collaborative environment up there.
And that helps the patient, right? So as general surgeons, the fact that you do collaborate, you talk to each other about patients, that’s a benefit to the patient’s care, correct?
Absolutely. So, not only do we share our expertise within the department, but we also have a multidisciplinary approach to the patients that we take care of. For example, in my clinic, I just got done with this morning, I had a lady from Floyd County who had a problem with enlarged lymph nodes in the abdomen, and it’s unclear why she had that. So, I was able to discuss her before seeing her in clinic at our multidisciplinary tumor board, get her imaging from Charles City, review the imaging with the radiologists who were present at the meeting, review the imaging and other findings with the medical oncologists and the radiation oncologist. By the time I saw the patient in my office, we already had a multi-pronged, multi-disciplinary plan for how we would proceed with her care, both in regards to additional investigation, and how we would be able to get a biopsy.
That’s incredible. That’s like all hands on deck. So, Mason City’s a smaller community, and it’s amazing the healthcare that patients can get here at MercyOne North Iowa, and at the Mason City Clinic.
Yes. I take pride in that, and the fact that we’ve got a very cohesive and cooperative medical community. I not only can page my colleagues at work, I have all their cell phone numbers, and occasionally I just shoot them a text with a question, and it’s a good feeling,
Right, and that’s good for the patient at the end of the day. So, I’ve heard you this before that you provide a safe environment for surgical patients pre and post operations. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Yes. So, to get a good surgical outcome, it’s not just your expertise in the operating room. You have to be able to assess the patients preoperatively, to make the correct clinical judgment in regards to what, if any surgery they need. When you have made that decision, you have to inform the patient and their family in regards to what the surgery entails, what to expect from the surgery, what to expect the day of surgery, and what to expect postoperatively, and what to do if you have problems. The other important aspect is that after the surgery is done, you have to have a good, what we in medical terminology call a rescue mechanism, which means that if everything doesn’t go exactly as planned, what are you going to do? Do you have the capabilities to take care of a patient who might have a cardiac issue, or an issue which might require ICU care and such, and we do have that in Mason City.
I love that, because I don’t think a lot of people think about like pre-surgery or post-surgery, and what’s involved in that. They’re usually just thinking about the surgery that they have to get done.
Actually, that is the latest trend in medical management is a bigger focus on presurgical evaluation of the patient, presurgical education. It’s been clearly shown that if you spend more time with presurgical education of the patient, and educate them in regards to what to expect the day of surgery and what to expect after surgery, that the recovery, it’s been scientifically proven that the recovery is better.
Correct, because one of the things is that you have to have a discussion with your patients, and tell them that you will experience some discomfort after this procedure, but the pain medication should take the edge off of it and make it bearable.
But don’t expect to be completely pain free, and just by setting those expectations, it’s been proven that the use of narcotics has decreased significantly postoperatively, which is a big issue right now that we’re prescribing less narcotics for patients and patients are actually doing fine, and there’s a lower risk of developing addiction.
Addiction to yeah, to the painkillers. So. It sounds like you love your job.
Yes. There is never a dull day doing what I do. Occasionally you get overwhelmed, but never bored, and there’s never a day where you don’t feel that you are doing something important. So, the days that you’re tired and overwhelmed, you still have the benefit of knowing that what you do counts for something, and that it’s important.
I love that. One last question. I mean, you didn’t grow up in Mason City. You’ve come here to practice medicine, correct?
So, what do you like about practicing general surgery here in Mason City? What keeps you here and so passionate?
So, I feel that … well, I’ve practiced medicine in two different continents, in Europe and in the United States. In the United States, I did residency at University of Iowa, and then we had rotations out in the east coast. The reason I like it the best here is because I feel that we have a caring community. I think that our patients, despite the fact that when they come to see us, they’re having a big problem in their lives, are gracious and grateful for the service that we provide and makes it worthwhile.
Thanks for being on the program.
Thank you for listening to Mason City, Docs on Call. For more episodes, go to MCclinic.com/radio-podcasts.