Note: This first appeared in the Spring 2010 issue of Focus.
Physician’s Gift Honors Surgical Nurses and Technicians
When Ramin Sarrafizadeh, MD, PhD, arrived in Traverse City nine years ago, he had a vision: All patients in northern Michigan with retinal disease would have nearby access to specialized retinal eye care.
His practice, Associated Retinal Consultants, P.C., opened an office in Traverse City at the request of local ophthalmologists.
Today, four of the 15 partners of Associated Retinal Consultants are based in Traverse City, including a medical retinal specialist who specializes in research and major clinical studies, and three vitreoretinal surgeons who perform 600 to 800 surgeries a year. A fourth surgeon will join the practice in Traverse City this fall.
"The vast majority of our patients are very, very sick with diseases that are actively blinding them they are desperately ill and rapidly losing their vision, Dr. Sarrafizadeh said. You can only have a service like ours if you have a committed hospital, and a committed nursing and technical staff."
Dr. Sarrafizadeh recently made a donation to the Munson Healthcare Regional Foundation in honor of the surgical team that assists him and the other vitreoretinal surgeons at Munson Medical Center. His gift was directed toward clinical education. I felt there was nowhere I could invest my money better. Hopefully, this will help our staff have additional didactic educational opportunities. There are many national conferences they could go to.
Dr. Sarrafizadeh has only the highest praise for the Munson team that specializes in vitreoretinal surgeries. "This is a small nucleus of four to five people specially trained in what we do, which is such an esoteric subspecialty. These people are better than those you would find at university hospitals, and yet they function completely under the radar. They give up vast amounts of time with their family and their children because they know that if they go home, there is no one else in northern Michigan who is qualified to take care of these patients."
When the surgical practice had a vacancy three years ago, other downstate partners of Associated Retinal Consultants rotated to Traverse City on a weekly basis to fill in.
"It was an absolute miracle the way the nurses and technicians were able to adapt to each surgeon’s way of doing things," Dr. Sarrafizadeh said. "It speaks to how good they are because they can anticipate anything.
The universal sentiment of the surgeons who came here was this team is the best they’ve ever worked with. These surgeons have worked at many of the best eye hospitals in the country, so high praise from them is quite a statement."
Dr. Sarrafizadeh added it is a blessing and a privilege to perform his subspecialty in northern Michigan with this team. "When a patient comes to see us and says, ‘I’m losing my vision, please help me,’ there is no greater honor than that."
"After surgery, patients almost universally comment on how nice the people at the hospital were. When they go in for surgery they are full of anxiety and fear. Afterwards, they want to hug me because the people at the hospital were so very supportive of them on an emotional level. They always want me to thank the people at the hospital for their kindness."