Every day, our doctors go above and beyond to help our communities heal. On March 30, we celebrate Doctors’ Day, expressing our appreciation to those who care for us and guide us to maintain a healthy lifestyle all year.
Asif Talukder, MD, colon and rectal surgeon with Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group, joined our ministry last year and shared his thoughts on being a doctor.
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine/healthcare? Why did you choose your specialty?
I took an interest in medicine after a family member was diagnosed with cancer and we learned that there was a genetic mutation that might be responsible for that diagnosis. I was inspired by the incredible level of care that we received and decided that I wanted to spend my professional life helping other people in that way. I chose to become a surgeon because I really liked the idea of providing personalized care to my patients. Every surgery — even routine procedures — is as unique as our patients so for me, my surgeries are really tailored to a specific patient, their disease and their anatomy.
2. Have there been any challenges you’ve faced and overcome in your career journey? Who has influenced you most in your career?
The COVID-19 pandemic occurred right at the end of my general surgery training, and the medical system began recovering toward the beginning of my fellowship. This all happened at the same time our son was born, and so very quickly our world was completely re-arranged both personally and professionally. I am really lucky to have many incredible mentors throughout my training, and I really needed different things from different mentors at various points in my professional development. I have really learned about the value of great mentors in the service of the patients. Just about every week I will run an interesting case by them to get their thoughts. My hope is just to pay that forward working with our talented fellows, residents and medical students through our partnership with LSU.
3. What do you like most about being a doctor?
I really enjoy working with all sorts of people. That is what is really great about my specialty — there is not any one kind of colorectal patient — and so I encounter an incredible diversity of patients on a daily basis. It keeps the day very interesting. As a specialist, I see a lot of complex problems that involve multidisciplinary care so I also get to work with so many kinds of different physicians every day — family medicine doctors, emergency physicians, urologists, radiologists, oncologists and gynecologists, just to name a few. It is a rewarding experience to be at the center of the exchange of information and knowledge happening between all of these groups in the service of our patients.
4. If you weren’t a doctor, what would you do?
I think about this all time, and I have no idea what I would do with myself anymore. I know this sounds corny, but I love my job, the people I work with and the patients I treat.
5. How do you ensure your patients feel heard during their visit?
When patients come to my office, it is usually for a very personal problem that they usually have had some difficulty discussing either due to embarrassment or personal discomfort. My goal is to make them feel that they are not alone — oftentimes their problems are very common and treatable. I have worked hard on getting comfortable with silence in my clinic and allowing the patients to fill the silence with their thoughts and feelings.
6. Why did you choose Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group for your practice?
I wanted to work at a hospital committed to caring for all sorts of people in the community. I also wanted to work in a hospital committed to excellent surgical outcomes and to that end the colorectal group at Our Lady of the Lake Physician Group was very inspirational. Our Lady of the Lake Cancer Institute was one of the early centers that obtained National Accreditation Program for Rectal Cancer (NAPRC) status from the American College of Surgeons — it still remains very difficult to achieve. We are still the only center in Louisiana with this status. To me, it said something significant about the quality of care offered not just by the colorectal surgeons, but the whole team of people involved in taking care of our cancer patients. My partners are an incredible group surgeons and professionally inspirational — but more than that, they are people who share my values. After meeting them all, I knew that they would be great professional role models and that my patients would be safe in their hands.