New general surgeon in town

Amira Ghazali poses in a hallway at the Western Missouri Medical Center in town where she became the new general surgeon Sept. 1.

PHOTO BY ANDREA LOPEZ / FEATURES EDITOR Amira Ghazali poses in a hallway at the Western Missouri Medical Center in town where she became the new general surgeon Sept. 1.

Written by Muleskinner Staff

Features Editor
(WARRENSBURG, Mo., digitalBURG)  — With a heart for healthcare and a couple cavities she had growing up, Amira Ghazali was destined to become a dentist. However, her path quickly changed.

PHOTO BY ANDREA LOPEZ / FEATURES EDITOR Amira Ghazali poses in a hallway at the Western Missouri Medical Center in town where she became the new general surgeon Sept. 1.
Amira Ghazali poses in a hallway at the Western Missouri Medical Center in town where she became the new general surgeon Sept. 1.

“When I was a junior in high school, 9/11 happened, and after that, I decided I would want to be a doctor instead of a dentist,” she said. “I wanted to help people who needed help.”
When Ghazali heard of an aggressive six-year medical school program offered at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, which enabled her to earn her doctorate in medicine without taking the Medical College Admission Test, she took the deal.
It wasn’t easy though.
“I didn’t enjoy it at first, so I took a little break from school so I could slow down and enjoy my time in college,” Ghazali said. “Then I finished my undergrad degree and came back and did the medical school there.”
While Ghazali said it was hard staying focused, she constantly reminded herself to stick it out.
“I think it takes a no-quitter attitude where you tell yourself that quitting is not an option,” she said. “By the end of everything, you forget how hard it was. All you remember is that you succeeded and it feels good.”
Once she graduated college, Ghazali chose her specialty to be general surgery and stayed in the Kansas City area to complete her five-year residency training. During that time, under the watch of practicing surgeons, Ghazali rotated between three different hospitals: St. Luke’s Hospital, Truman Medical Center and the Kansas City VA Medical Center.
“Each hospital offered a different kind of experience in the world of surgery,” she said. “We did everything from basic general surgery, like taking out appendixes for an appendicitis, to trauma. The trauma surgery was probably the most challenging experience of my life, because you are dealing with a lot – I mean a lot of people of all ages, but a lot of young people who have just had the worst day of their lives and their life is in danger of being lost.”
Mental toughness is what Ghazali said got her through the years of schooling and training.
“I don’t mean tough that it was hard for me,” she said. “I mean tough like I was tough.”
More so with her experience in trauma surgery, Ghazali said the cases shaped her to be her best.
“You stay up all night with these patients because you care about them, and you care about their families, and you don’t really know them very well because they just came in that night,” she said. “They need you, and they need you at your best. You learn to try and be your best because a lot of times, you only have one opportunity – you only get one shot at saving somebody’s life. You don’t want to mess that up.”
One unique approach Ghazali has been able to incorporate in her surgical practices is her artistic talent.
“I have always been really artistic and good with my hands – I’ve done a lot of painting and sculpture and drawing in high school – and in surgery, I found that I could apply some of my artistic nature to my work, and I like that a lot.”
Ghazali brings out her artistic nature especially in the way she stitches scars.
“I found it really nice that I could practice and practice my stitching skills, that I can get really good at lining up an incision,” she said. “So closing incisions is actually an art form – you have to practice it, and you have to modify your technique to get good results. In the end, people look at what you’ve done, and they love it or hate it – that reminded me a lot of the art I used to do.”
The hands on work with patients and the unique problem solving, is what Ghazali said she enjoys most about general surgery.
While the Kansas City lifestyle brought exciting experiences, Ghazali said she was ready to slow down a bit. That’s when Warrensburg appeared on her radar.
“As much as I enjoy the energy of the trauma setting, I think my heart lies at taking care of people at a slower pace,” she said. “I really enjoyed general surgery and operating on people more than I enjoyed the trauma stuff and the critical care.”
When it comes to general surgery, Ghazali said the cases in the Burg are the same, but the atmosphere is different.
“The difference is I get to know the people who are referring patients to me, and it’s just a closer knit family of caregivers, and that’s what I was looking for when I came here,” she said. “I really enjoyed working at the VA – working with the veterans was something that I thought was really rewarding. Out here, one of the benefits is you get to work with a lot of airmen from the (Whiteman Air Force) Base, and that is fantastic. You get that good feeling of getting to give back to the men and women that serve our country.”
As a general surgeon, Ghazali said she has two main focuses: addressing elective and emergent surgical problems.
Elective surgeries involve cases that are typically scheduled, such as removing a mole or a lump from someone’s body or even taking out a gall bladder. Emergent surgery, on the other hand, involves more urgent care, such as treating someone who has appendicitis or an individual who has a punctured ulcer in his or her stomach.
“We get the best of both worlds – things that you see in the office and take care of on a schedule that’s planned, and things that you see emergently, through the emergency room,” Ghazali said.
As she approaches the surgery room, Ghazali said her mindset is focused on the end goal: the patient’s recovery.
“I want to have reviewed the operation itself and what the goals of the surgery are,” she said. “You get your game face on, and you go into surgery, and you do the operation in the best way that you can and get the person out in good condition.”
When she landed at Western Missouri Medical Center in town, Ghazali said she was ready to do her job.
“My goal to coming to Warrensburg was that I wanted to practice surgery,” she said. “ I wanted to be a part of a community where I could contribute my skills to the wellness of the people that live here. I want to be open to seeing all sorts of problems, offering a fresh set of eyes for things that might be hard to diagnose or challenges that people have been facing.”
Being a young female professional in her 30s, Ghazali said she feels that she offers a different perspective.
“One message I have for women is, you do what you want,” she said. “There’s no one trying to hold you back. Sometimes it feels like they might be, but if you just put your foot down and go after your dreams, you can do anything.”