The 2020 Interviews

Zoë Fort Informational Interview with Dr. Yosef Nasseri – Fall 2020

This semester I was afforded the opportunity to conduct a virtual interview with Dr.
Yosef Nasseri of the Surgery Group of Los Angeles. The interview was thoroughly engaging and fulfilling for me as I embark on my journey to apply to medical school. Dr. Nasseri is a general surgeon with a specialty in colorectal surgery with a focus in robotics and minimally invasive techniques for colon and rectal diseases (malignant and benign). He works in a large multi-specialty group in Los Angeles, the Surgery Group of LA, which is attached to and affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Hospital. He conducts prospective and retrospective research projects with the Surgery Group of Los Angeles Research Foundation.

As I began to interview Dr. Nasseri, I learned that we shared many of the same interests. I
told Dr. Nasseri that in addition to having a deep-rooted love for science and some of the latest developments in medicine, I am also largely interested in serving people in need. One of the elements that draws me to medicine is being the first point of contact when a patient goes through one of the most nerve-wracking or distressing experiences of their life. Dr. Nasseri too shares this same drive and is one of the medical field’s leaders in cutting edge medical technology. I was excited to learn about Dr. Nasseri’s field of work because it seems like working in a large multispecialty group is exhilarating because not only does he have a plethora of colleagues to collaborate and investigate with, but they are also able to meet at the intersections of his patient’s journeys to find the best healthcare solutions for each individual.

When I asked Dr. Nasseri about what his job looked like on a day-to-day basis he shared
with me that on Tuesdays and Fridays, he sees patients in anticipation for their upcoming
surgeries, usually routine hemorrhoid removals, and conducts follow-up appointments to assess the recovery of patients he has already operated on. He completes the actual operations on Mondays and Wednesdays. Many times, he is completing quick outpatient surgeries where his patient goes home the same day. In other instances, he will be operating on colon cancer patients or people suffering from Chron’s disease. When I asked, he informed me that his favorite procedure is the robotic laparoscopy, which he specializes in. He utilizes a scope camera and is actually able to step away from the patient because there is a robot “arm” in the patient which is able to execute a finer dissection than the human hand. Dr. Nasseri informed me that while this surgical work keeps him very busy, he also works with students in a teaching capacity and
conducts research for papers and journals.

Robotic Right Colectomy – Dr. Yosef Nasseri:

When I asked Dr. Nasseri what it was like to work in a large city like Los Angeles and
how he had obtained so many languages, he began to tell me the story of his upbringing. He was born in Iran and then raised in Israel where he learned Farsi and Hebrew. When he was in middle school his family moved to Los Angeles and this is when he picked up English. After graduating high school, he was accepted into Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. Once he earned his MD, he moved back to California to complete his residency at Cedars-Sinai in LA. He then completed his fellowship at the esteemed Cleveland Clinic in Ohio. Dr. Nasseri is double board certified in general surgery and colorectal surgery. Since becoming a physician, he has also picked up Spanish from his patients, making him fluent in four languages. Out of all of these languages, he said Hebrew was the hardest to learn because it entails seven forms of conjugation for verbs.

In addition to the ethnic and linguistic multiplicity of patients Dr. Nasseri is able to work
with, I was particularly interested in the work that Dr. Nasseri does with the LGBTQIA+
community, specifically transgender people because this is a community that I am interested in serving in my own career. Dr. Nasseri informed me that the work sort of fell in his lap actually. After practicing medicine for a while with his group in LA, he hired a surgeon that specialized in transition surgeries. Soon thereafter, Dr. Nasseri and this colleague began to collaborate on these operations. During these surgeries, Dr. Nasseri salvages a piece of the patient’s colon to create a neovagina for those electing for male-to-female transition surgeries.

Salvage Colon Vaginoplasty (360) by Maurice M. Garcia, MD and Yosef Nasseri, MD:

Laparoscopic Colovaginoplasty (Gender Affirmation) Using Right Colon:

Another part of Dr. Nasseri’s work that intrigued me was his service work abroad. He has
engaged in countless mission trips, mostly to Guatemala with a group of surgeons that repair cleft lips, hernias, gallbladder issues, and dental deformations. The team typically arrives at a military base or hospital and triages their patients upon arrival. He shared that the locals are very grateful for the service that him and his colleagues are able to provide and they typically thank the team in traditional food dishes. While on their mission trips, the team spends five days on from 8 am to 10 pm completing surgeries. He says these operations can be particularly difficult because the facilities they go to usually do not have the means to complete CAT scans, blood drawings, or blood transfusions that go along with the surgeries. Even so, these doctors are able to accomplish life-changing work. After their five days on the clock, the team will usually take two days off for vacation.

In addition to discussing with me the ins and outs of medical school admission, the
process of becoming board certified, and his daily work, Dr. Nasseri also discussed other
logistical matters with me in terms of running a private practice. He shared that private practice is largely based on the practice’s online reputation, social media, and marketing. This is why Dr. Nasseri and a group of physicians ventured to write, “But His Yelp Reviews Are Awful“: Analysis of General Surgeons” Yelp Reviews, which he recalled was a “cute” study. In addition to maintaining public image, physicians in private practice are also challenged with building up their CVs, staying published, building leverage, and staying marketable. On the subject of private practice, he said they have seen a shift in the last ten to twenty years in which hospitals have swallowed private practices and hospitals have, in some ways, monopolized the industry, thus taking the independence away from private practices.

When I asked him about how Covid-19 had affected his life as a physician he told me,
“Covid threw a wrench in everything, I don’t know when it’ll end”. Medical societies, CMES, presentations for papers, and academia have all been affected. Dr. Nasseri said the virus has rendered nearly everything, except the practice itself, virtual. He shared with me that he used to fly to at least four to five conferences a year and now this is not possible. He relayed that it was certainly a process transitioning his patients to a virtual platform and then back to in-person appointments and procedures.

Lastly, and most importantly for me, I asked Dr. Nasseri about how he deals with the
stigma associated with his specialization. The colorectal field is largely stigmatized and there is a great amount of shame that goes with screening and diagnosis for the associated diseases. I imagined that this could be a barrier in getting timely and preventative testing and interventions for colorectal patients and wanted to hear more about this given my interest in obstetrics and gynecology, another stigmatized field. Dr. Nasseri was very grateful that I asked and was gracious in discussing with me the challenges he faces in his specialization. He told me it is not something that is particularly easy to bring up at a cocktail party and people often do not understand his work. At the beginning of his career, he used to refer to his job as an intestinal and cancer surgeon instead of a colorectal surgeon. He said the most important thing for prospective and practicing surgeons in stigmatized specialties is to “always remember and know the impact that you are having on people’s lives”. He believes it is key to treat each patient with respect and sensitivity and to have a professional chaperone in the room. For colorectal diagnoses, he makes it a point to let his patients know that there are options available. Dr. Nasseri has made it one of his missions to break the taboo of colorectal diseases, let his patients know they are more common than they think, and most importantly to give his patients hope.

In short, I had a fantastic time sitting at the feet of Dr. Yosef Nasseri and feel immensely
grateful for the opportunity to learn from him about his personal experience in the medical field. I  admire his dedication to his work whether that be practicing medicine, being a leader in innovate robotic technology, teaching, researching, or being a champion for destigmatizing the colorectal specialty. I enjoyed learning about his upbringing, schooling, process in medicine, special interests, and concerns about the field currently. Dr. Nasseri and I shared many, many interests like stigmatized fields, mission work, working in warm weather, and working with underserved communities. Overall, Dr. Nasseri was very easy-going and interested in me as a student and I greatly appreciated his wit, passion, and humility.