American College Of Surgeons - Inspiring Quality: Highest Standards, Better Outcomes

Like Father, Like Son: The Gift of Surgery with My Dad

Ali Kasraeian“Good job. Love you,” my father said, as he usually does when we finish a case together. And so ended a complex partial nephrectomy that my father and I performed just this past week. Without a doubt, the thing I look forward to most, and the time that I have cherished the most in my career as a young surgeon, is the opportunity to operate with my dad!

I am a urological surgeon, fellowship-trained in minimally invasive, robotic, and ablative urological surgery. I have been blessed with what I believe to be the most amazing opportunity: to operate with my dad, also a urologist. In fact, we are a family of surgeons. My father; my brother, Sina, an orthopaedic surgeon with fellowship training in sports medicine; and I are all Fellows of the American College of Surgeons—a bond that we are all quite proud to share!

As a young child, I could not imagine anything more amazing than being a surgeon. I remember hearing my dad’s stories around the dinner table at night, visiting him at work and sitting in the doctor’s lounges, and watching the interaction between him, his colleagues, and the world of surgery, and I imagined no other place that I wanted to be and nothing else that I wanted to do “when I grew up.” Interestingly, our parents never pressured us into medicine. In fact, they did quite the opposite. My mother, world-renowned breast pathologist Shahla Masood, MD, would always say, “if there is anything else that you could imagine doing other than medicine, do that. If you cannot imagine doing anything else, then pursue medicine.” Suffice it to say, both my brother and I could not imagine doing anything else.

My brother and I had a very simple understanding of what my father did as a urologist. I cannot quite recall how, but we had somehow learned that one of the procedures that he performed involved removing stones from his patients’ kidneys. Looking back through childhood photographs, there are countless pictures of my brother and me, dressed in full surgical regalia, performing mock surgeries on any stuffed animal or toy we could find. We used to actually make small incisions in our stuff animals, insert stones and pebbles that we would collect from our yard, try to sew the incisions back up, and then begin our more formal attempts at open stone retrieval and extraction—complete with the best post-operative care provided by my dear grandmother. Her care was invaluable to our “patients,” as it often included “a little,” as she used to suggest, better and much needed reinforcement of our less-than-optimal suture lines, ensuring that our patients’ stuffed entrails remained intact.

Ahmad and Ali Kasraeian

For me, I am always thankful to my father for introducing me to surgery. I am also forever grateful for his mentorship as a surgeon and as a urologist. Very early in my career, following my fellowship, the comfort of knowing that I would perform my operations with my father, who is without a doubt one of the most talented and naturally gifted technical surgeons with whom I have ever had the privilege to operate, allowed me to push myself to do the complex operations that I was trained to perform. He has, in so many ways, helped shape my career as a urological surgeon. He has also taught me to be a smart surgeon, both inside and out of the operating room, and to know when to operate and, most importantly, when not to. However, the most priceless and special part of his mentorship is that I know that he has my best interests at heart. I try my best to make sure that he knows in his mind and his heart that without doubt I do the same. In the climate of today’s medical world, such a relationship is invaluable and not always easy to find. In my personal opinion, such a mentorship is priceless to the growth of a young surgeon. I know it was to mine.

Of course, for me, a great compliment is always when I impress my father in the operating room. I take a great deal of pride in my work as surgeon, as does he, so when my greatest mentor, a urological surgeon with three decades of experience who has operated all over the world and has seen almost everything, is not only proud of me, his son, but of the work that we do together, I cannot help but feel a great sense of accomplishment. My father is a very kind-hearted and soft-spoken man, who always sees the positive in most situations. However, he is blatantly honest. Therefore, it is always quite special for me to see his genuine excitement when we get through the more difficult aspects of especially challenging cases.

Ali Kasraeian operating alongside his father, Ahmed.

The eight years we’ve spent together since I joined my dad’s previously solo private practice have been incredibly fun, exciting, enlightening, and, at times, challenging… but mostly it has been rewarding. We are proud of the work that we do. We are proud of successfully combining my father’s experience with the minimally invasive and ablative techniques of my fellowship training in a way that allows us to provide our patients with the best and most cutting-edge urological and surgical care, all the while aiming to treat them like family—with care, dignity, attention, and respect—a lesson learned from a lifetime of watching my parents epitomize the role of the physician as the patient advocate.

I mentioned great compliments earlier. Without a doubt, the greatest compliment that I have ever received as a surgeon came during an open prostatectomy that I performed several years ago with another urologist, who had asked me to help due to the complexity of the case. Of note, this particular urologist had been my father’s primary assistant for the majority of his private practice career prior to my joining him in 2008. Toward the end of a very difficult operation, which had progressed much more smoothly than either one of us had expected based on a number of anticipated preoperative patient factors, the surgeon looked at me and said, “it is amazing how much like your father you operate… you operate just like your dad.” To me this was, and will be, the greatest compliment that I have or will ever receive as a surgeon!

About the Author

Ali Kasraeian, MD, FACS, is a urological surgeon, fellowship trained in minimally invasive, robotic, and ablative urological surgery. He works with his father, Ahmad Kasraeian, MD, FACS, at Kasraeian Urology in Jacksonville, FL.