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Careers in Medicine: Zaid Abdelsattar, MD, MS, Cardiothoracic Surgeon

I am so happy to feature my all-time favorite physician, my husband! While Zaid was born with a naturally superior intellect, we can all learn from his work ethic. He is the hardest working person I know. And of course, he is an IMG (international medical graduate). Give him a follow on Twitter (he is Instagram-shy).

Name: Zaid Abdelsattar, MD, MS

Job title: Assistant Professor of Thoracic Surgery; Associate Fellowship Program Director

Type of practice: Academic

Social media: Twitter @ZaidAbdelsattar

Journey to medicine

Medical training

Undergrad: none

Medical school: University of Jordan

Residency: Mayo Clinic

Research fellowship, masters of science degree: University of Michigan

Fellowship: Mayo Clinic

Why did you choose this field?

I knew I wanted surgery, and I knew I wanted to be involved in oncology; I like to work with my hands, and deliver immediate results. I did not know I wanted thoracic surgery until after I finished 3 clinical years and 2 years of research. When I returned to my thoracic rotation after research, I fell in love with it. You get to work on the heart, the lungs and the mediastinum. It has both benign and malignant pathology, you get to cure lung cancer surgically, and the science is rapidly evolving. You can also give patients a shot at life with heart and/or lung transplant, and in cardiac surgery you give patients the ability to be active again when they have been limited by shortness of breath or chest pain. Also, stopping the heart and restarting it, is just amazing.

How did you make your CV stand out? For medical school or residency?

I did not have anything special in medical school except high grades, and strong letters of recommendation from my electives. I was a foreign medical graduate. So I first matched as a preliminary surgery resident. At Mayo Clinic, they have a track record of keeping one prelim resident every year to become a categorial. Out of 18 prelims, I was one of the lucky ones that year. So I stayed as a categorical. To differentiate myself for fellowship, I did 2 years of research in the middle of training and got a Masters degree.

How much research experience did you have when you applied for medical school? For residency?

Only during residency. None in medical school.

What is the most fulfilling thing about your career?

Curing patients from lung cancer and working with students, residents, fellows, colleagues and mentors

What is the least fulfilling thing about your career?


Work life

What does a day in the life look like for you?

As a surgeon-scientist, my daily life depends on what I am doing that particular day. Typically, I would have resident teaching conference in the morning, followed by rounding on my inpatients and discussing consults with my team, before starting our operative day. Most commonly I would be doing a robotic lung resection. This means that we do a bronchoscopy first, check the airways for any surprises, then start the operation. We enter the chest and then I hop on the robot. Every case has its own challenges. we go through the steps of the operation. Finish it up, then I talk to the family about how things went. Then I would either have meetings, research papers to go over, clinic or another case depending on the day.

How many hours a week do you work?


What are common conditions you manage?

Lung cancer, Esophageal cancer, End stage lung disease, GERD, Thymoma

What is your favorite condition to manage? Lung cancer

What is a big misconception about your field?

There is a lot of outdated information about lung cancer. Lung cancer is the number one cancer killer. If you are seeing a surgeon, it is a good thing, because that means there is a chance we can cure this with surgery alone, or with surgery and some additional therapy.

What is something surprising that you do in your job?

Lung transplant

Do you perform procedures? Yes.

Life outside work

What are your hobbies or interests outside medicine?

I like to swim and travel. Recently I am getting into skiing.

Do you feel like your have work-life balance? If so, how do you achieve it?

It is very important to note that both work and life are good things. I’m gonna quote my mentor on this, she always says: "It's not like one is good and one is bad". They are both intermixed in my day. Some days there is more work than personal life, and some days there is more personal life than work. Being a surgeon becomes part of your lifestyle.

Any last words of wisdom for those considering a career in medicine?

Follow your passion. Never give up.

* * *

I will be featuring different physicians and healthcare workers here on the Blog regularly through Medical Careers Series. Through sharing these stories, my hope is to demystify careers in medicine for the younger generation and for those hoping to pursue medicine. Share this with someone who might be interested!

Please like/comment if you'd like to see more posts like this.

#medicine #careersinmedicine #surgeon #thoracicsurgery #thoracicsurgeon #cardiothoracicsurgeon #IMGseries

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