Makeover master — Saudi medical student in US training to be plastic...

Makeover master — Saudi medical student in US training to be plastic surgeon

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Nicolla Hewitt
Saudi Gazette

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester Minnesota is widely viewed as one of the best hospitals in the world. Established in the United States over 150 year ago, today the Mayo Clinic also operates out of locations in Arizona, and Florida. Some 55,000 doctors, nurses, scientists and researchers work at these clinics. With an annual research budget of over $625 million, the Mayo Clinic is a leading academic research and medical institution. It is also where Saad Al Subaie, from Al Hulwah, a small town about 160 km south of Riyadh, is on track to become one of the first people from Saudi Arabia to complete integrated residency and fellowship training and get board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS).

When most people think about doctors, it is not every time they think about plastic surgeons. But for Saad, his dream has always been to pursue his medical career in this particular field. Speaking to Saudi Gazette from Mayo Clinic headquarters in Rochester he said, “As a plastic surgeon your job is to restore not only the function but also the shape of the human body. Plastic surgery is about optimizing the quality of life.”

Learning at one of the best-known medical institutions in the world has been hugely rewarding for Saad. The Mayo Clinic, which has treated many well known patients including the late King Hussein of Jordan, and famous American families the Hiltons and Guggenheims, is also home to five different education centers, including the Mayo Graduate School. This is where Saad has been studying since 2012. It takes an average of five years to complete training, and the school boasts a faculty of over 200 and access to data from more than 6 million patient histories.

Speaking of his experiences, Saad said: “As a surgical resident you have very limited time to sleep, rest and eat. The rest of your time you are either in the operation rooms, clinics or doing your clinical duties on the surgical floor. If you have the luxury of extra time you better be spending it reviewing and writing some papers for publication in your field. I like being a surgical resident. It is very challenging and seeing your patient’s smile is the ultimate reward.”

He has certainly been seeing a lot of patients. On an average year more than one million patients from all 50 states in the US and from more than 150 countries are seen at one of the Mayo Clinic facilities. During his interview Saad said: “The needs of the patient come first. This is the primary value of our practice here at Mayo Clinic. I really want the best for my patients and hopefully being a plastic surgeon trained in the world-renowned Mayo Clinic will make me able to achieve that.”

The Mayo Clinic has an annual research budget of over $600 million, and it is the first and largest integrated nonprofit medical group practice in the world. Given these statistics it seems the reputation of where Saad is training says so much about the quality of the surgeries he is doing. Saad said: “Being a plastic surgeon, and striving for perfection for you and the patient is key. When you accept a patient for a cosmetic procedure you are not removing pathology or covering a defect. You are, in fact, rearranging normal tissue to look subjectively more beautiful and attractive. To be a plastic surgeon you need to be an extraordinary talented “surgeon” with many and variety of technical skills.

For many people who grew up in the Kingdom, spending five years in the middle of the United States could prove a challenge. But not for Saad, and his good sense of humor. “I grew up in a small town in Saudi Arabia. My people are into farming and hunting and they love their camels. It’s really surprising that people here in Minnesota are not that different. No camels here though!”

The patients he hass treated from the United States are often interested to hear he is from Saudi Arabia, and Saad has learned from them too. “People here really don’t care about your background, color, culture or the way you look. It’s very rarely that my patient will ask me about where I am from. When they did on a rare occasion, they usually always associate Saudi with oil or the desert.”

As he looks to returning to Saudi Arabia with the surgical skills he hass learnt as a plastic surgeon at the famed Mayo Clinic in the United States, Al Subaie told the Saudi Gazette, “I think what is more important than the skills I have developed is the way that the people in the developed world treat their fellow humans regardless of their religion or social status.”

For patients everywhere, having a skilled and compassionate doctor is always something they look for. It seems numerous patients will be looking for the skills of Dr. Saad Al Subaie and the immense talent he has acquired at the Mayo Clinic and to be certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

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